In the moment before our phones connect, Clash has been gazing at a photo of SOHN on tour. An artist enamoured by mystery, this is one of only a few pictures revealed to fans.
LA’s postcard-ready palms dominate the frame, boldly stretching towards a bright wash of azure sky. A stark contrast to the man in the bottom left corner, hood up, dressed head to toe in black. Instantly affecting, it’s a fitting epitome of his sound.
First his voice. A real direct hit. Rich, wounded soul, it easily justifies the a cappella additions on two of his three releases to date. The tunes are infectious too, almost brazen in their overload of emotion.
Cathartic familiarity is offset by an intricate backdrop of analogue drum machines and synthesizers. They morph with captivating subtlety, from the sadwave-coined spread of ‘The Wheel’ to the restless nighttime groove of ‘Lessons’.
His music is the result of alternating between two homes: the isolated mountains of Vienna and the dense, creative-insomnia of London. Ethereal soul meets stuttering beats. Still, it’s a little dramatic isn’t it? Fleeing one for the other. A cup of tea and a nice sit down springs to mind. “I’m quite a dramatic person though,” he admits. “And I’m obsessed with the puzzle.”
That puzzle centres on balance, principally voice versus production. “Everything I do comes down to the voice. The rest is just the landscape you place it in. I never liked electronic music. I didn’t feel like it had any emotion.”
Then he discovered analogue synthesizers. “That’s easily the most important reason why my sound is my sound. I use things you have to get your hands on, which is totally natural. I use instruments as tools.”
Signed to 4AD off the back of his debut single, he now sits comfortably alongside label-brethren Bon Iver, Grimes and Daughter. Awareness rising, will he ever open up outside his music? A vlog perhaps?
“No!” he laughs. “I think a bit of silence is actually very healthy, for the audience as much as for the artist. You wouldn’t want David Bowie on Twitter, would you?”
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WHAT: Wounded soul riding analogue waves
GET 3 SONGS: ‘The Wheel’, ‘Bloodflows’, ‘Lessons’ (video above)
FACT: SOHN works best nocturnally. “That sense of everyone else being asleep gives you something as an artist. You feel the right kind of alone.”
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Words: Kim Hillyard
Photo: Liam MF Warwick