4AD has been on a roll this year with unique new signees that are bringing the atmospheric R&B game to the next level. I guess this isn’t terribly surprising, considering 4AD has been on the forefront for, I don’t know, 35 years. But between last month’s sleeper hit Lo-Fang set and last week’s incredible Crocodile appearance by UK producer SOHN, Seattle is in the heat of a 4AD wave of mutilation (get it?!). SOHN performed brilliantly Wednesday night, superseding all expectation laid out by the release of his fantastic LP debut Tremors last month. Together with Norwegian pop singer Mr. Little Jeans, the night was ripe with progressive songwriting and pop mastery.
Seriously, who doesn’t love great Scandinavian pop music? Monica Birkeness pulls from influences as broad as Lykke Li to Robyn to make Mr. Little Jeans a unique and enticing project. Birkeness started making waves a couple years ago with a fantastically unique dubbed out rendition of “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire. But it didn’t take long for Mr. Little Jeans to start cranking out memorable singles of their own like “Runaway”, “Oh Sailor”, and “Good Mistake”. All collected with others on her debut Pocketknife, Birkeness, much like SOHN himself, is primed to be making rounds on the 2014 lists. The Mr. Little Jeans set this evening was met with strong reception from the crowd, who were very obviously as excited for Birkeness as SOHN later on. Building from a down-tempo groove to full pop majesty by the end, Mr. Little Jeans opened the night up in beautiful form. I hope we see a returning headline date soon.
Mr. Little Jeans:
It’s easy to see why SOHN (Christopher Taylor) is such a likable act. The guy has been dialing in his own take on pop for more than a couple years now, and in the final form we see them on Tremors, Taylor’s songs are some incredibly well put together pop wonders. Classics like “Oscillate” and “The Wheel” dance in moonlight with grace and elegance. “Bloodflows” walks a carefully intentional line between introspective dub and singer/songwriter piano ballad. Taylor has a plethora of similarly brilliant songwriters to pull influence from. James Blake, Tune-Yards, Massive Attack - they are all here. But the way SOHN strings them all together never veers off too far in one direction. Taylor keeps his head throughout Tremors, and the result is one very well-defined introduction.
SOHN’s live aesthetic supplemented his music perfectly. Lit from behind by a halo light while standing LED beams strobed in sequence with the music, Taylor’s was a blur on stage, even only ever sitting at his piano. With the vocal mix more forward than on the record, Taylor got to show off what real pipes he has in there under the all black hoodie, and the crowd loved every single minute. “Ransom Notes” and “Lights” were both adored by the crowd. Like Mr. Little Jeans before, SOHN preferred his set to build from a whisper to a bang. To end the main set, Taylor pulled out all stops on “Lessons”, letting the arpeggiators run and turning the end into a full fledged dub masterpiece. Returning to stage once more, the band played a slightly faster, 100% edgier “Artifice“. The entirety of the Crocodile were off their feet and out of their minds. SOHN won Seattle over at his softest and most accessible, and I’d say that’s a pretty surefire sign we’ll see him again soon.
Sohn’s debut Tremors is out now on 4AD.