Ever since Laneway Festival was born in a Melbourne alleyway in 2004 its organisers have garnered a reputation for having a keen eye for the next big indie acts about to break through the blogosphere’s ceiling and into the ears of just about anyone who is plugged into Triple J or otherwise.
While the likes of Florence + The Machine, The xx and Mumford and Sons are just a few of the names that testifies Laneway’s scouting ability the artist in question this time is the Austrian based and South London raised producer Christopher Taylor who operates under the moniker of SOHN.
While not a part of the festival bill, SOHN’s tour under the Laneway Presents banner could very well draw a few parallels with Glasgow synth-pop trio CHVRCHES’ debut pair of Aussie shows in August last year.
Laneway brought them out here just before their debut album helped them explode and unsurprisingly they were announced early for the 2014 festival.
So perhaps SOHN (and Jungle, another buzz act on tour for Laneway in July) is a likely addition for the 2015 event?
Either way his set at Ding Dong signalled that he has the right chops to satisfy a large festival audience if he is to return early next year.
The 4AD signee’s debut album, Tremors, is a soulful mix of electronic and RnB pop persuasions with lyrics affected by relationship induced melancholy.
SOHN borrows heavily from his recent contemporaries in James Blake and Jamie Woon. While he’s nowhere near as soulful as Blake or as musically inventive, Tremors is a palette that was built for a bigger audience.
To some that might be a detracting quality but unlike Woon SOHN’s debut album is consistently pretty darn good, permitting a couple of just passable fillers.
Though his live show holds up a mirror to the record, it’s almost with a frustrating degree of likeness. Although how frustrating all depends on your perspective of what makes a good live show.
The crisp electronica and the producer’s RnB vocals sound just like they do in your headphones with little margin for error.
While undeniably for some gig goers that is a hallmark for success the highlights of his debut Melbourne show and his last stop on a lengthy world tour was when he deviated from the status quo.
The cascading end of ‘Ransom Notes’ provided the perfect introduction to the machine gun initiated ‘Warning’ while on ‘Tempest’ the singer sounded genuinely beautiful when provided with space from the music rather than just sounding predictably beautiful as he did on so many occasions throughout the set.
On ‘Bloodflows’ though – the album and gig highlight – both vocals and music came together in a way that bettered its recorded counterpart, as it should.
The reverberations were felt throughout Ding Dong with the help of his two bandmates as SOHN’s yearning was powerful enough to suck in any cynic into the melodrama of “My love, my love, my love don’t love me”.
Lyrics like that undoubtedly also contribute to his mainstream crossover potential. SOHN leaves little room for interpretation in his words.
In that sense though there’s less of a chance for listeners to confuse his message and as they find a way to relate to lines like “Of lessons learned, of lessons learned, of bridges burned, of bridges burned, this time I’ll do things differently”.
‘The Wheel’ might stretch that sentiment a little too far as he sings “I died a week ago, there’s nothing left” and while that line might feign melancholy more than it does accentuate it the track is the overwhelming drawcard for Tremors.
While the album might overdo the emoting in most tracks both ‘The Wheel’ and ‘Lights’ back to back live showcased the best of SOHN’s pop mentality.
Which when it boils down to it is essentially the biggest facet behind the producer’s wide reaching appeal.
When heard live SOHN’s own distinctive brand of pop is infectious and interesting enough to appeal to a broad range of listeners.
The producer’s breakthrough is imminent, it’s just a matter of time before Laneway can lay claim to notching up another taste making achievement.