The Somnambulants
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The Somnambulants

Los Angeles, California, United States

Los Angeles, California, United States
Band EDM Pop

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Relative newcomers to the Bay Area from New York City, The Somnambulants are a male-female pair, Joseph White (bass, vocals, synths, programming) and Channing Sargent (synths, vocals), who have based their band on a love of all manner of electronic music. Their new album Paper Trail traces many of their mutual inspirations.

"Beat Down," included twice in different mixes, incorporates dire pronouncements of danger, and White sounds almost unhinged: "This town's too rough for you / This town's too rough for me" could refer to the more unsavory aspects of Brooklyn, where the duo first emerged in the Electroclash scene several years back. With a creepy Gary Numan-esque tone, intensified by its inclusion in a doubled loop like a Mobius strip, this song packs quite an impact.

Like a lot of electronic music, Paper Trail uses repetition to create a hypnotic effect. On the faster songs it's like a jackhammer, as on "Burning Daylight" where choruses of "more, more, more" (delivered spasmodically a la David Byrne) feel like the grip of addiction. However, it's most effective on "Water Colors," a dreamy, evocative number that swirls like eddies on the sand. With echoes of New Order at their most ambient, the song really does sound like the aural equivalent of a watercolor painting, not one that is finished and dry but rather one in the process of being created that still retains fluidity.

Things pick up again with "The Strip." Presumably named after L.A.'s Sunset Strip, the fast-paced instrumental provides a time-lapse sense of traffic on that busy street. The loveliest song is "Close Second." With an ethereal beauty coupled with the same psychosexual desperation found throughout this set, it reaches ambiguous but beautiful territory reminiscent of Roxy Music. (Clairaudience Collective Recordings)

www.somnambulants.com
-Susan Brooks - Performer Magazine (West Coast)


The Somnambulants...are more indie-pop-influenced than most of their contemporaries, and that, I think, is a good thing. The Somnambulants are a girl with Edie Sedgewick hair and a boy...doing a stunning imitation of "Junk Culture" - Village Voice


Reduce New Order and Aphex Twin to it's rawest, natural state; build back up with a sprinkling of electro-pop circa 1988; bake in a dance club oven of sweat and smoke and serious attitude; Serve cold, with a nice bottle of red wine. - Quick Before It Melts


What the hell is a somnambulant you ask? Well, if you happened to be somnambulating, you would be sleepwalking. But the last thing this San Francisco-based electro-pop duo will do is put you to sleep.

The unisex outfit scored last year when they had their song “Evacuation” added to the fine film Half Nelson. The band hopes to build on their success with the release of this sophomore LP titled Paper Trail. The record is raw electronica that sometimes has the feeling of Joy Division or early Cure. It’s raw and brash and the vocals are off-key just enough to give the music an eerie and artsy feel. Somnambulants favor analog bleeps, thin drums and loose distorted keyboard lines that give the record a sound that could have been recorded 25 years ago.

These songs are indeed odd stepchildren. If you listen to any one part of a composition individually (the vocal, the keyboard line, the drums) the first thing that comes to mind is “amateur”. But when you widen your view and listen to the songs without thinking about the individual pieces, you find yourself suddenly captured. Somnambulants are kind of like an electronic version of Neil Young. They can’t sing, they can’t play, but damn if it doesn’t sound great when it all comes together.

Paper Trails may take a while to soak in, but give it a bit of time and you’ll come away with some surprising rewards. - Rhapsody Rhadish


Evacuation is another one of those tasty little CDs that doesn't pretend to be more than it is; it simply aims straight for the pleasure centers and doesn't waver 'til the last track ends. I guess that's why I can recommend it so readily, but spent three weeks deciding whether or not I liked The Beta Band's Heroes to Zeros.

This Brooklyn-based duo has been lumped in with the waning electroclash movement, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense -- there's hardly any "clash" in their sound, and even the "electro" descriptor seems more circumstantial than fundamental to their existence (but hey, if it helps them sell a few more records and open some ears, that's fine). Members Joseph White and Channing Sargent focus on writing solid songs rather than pandering to trend-driven tastes, and as a result, Evacuation is mercifully free of bleak, joyless, aimless synth-punk slogfests. In place of all that keyboard-hammering angst, we're treated to percolating machine-drums, slippery New Order-approved basslines ("Evacuation" borders on copyright infringement, albeit enjoyably so) and burbling keyboard melodies that wouldn't sound out of place on a twenty year-old Anne Clark record. It all goes down without resistance, a thick, flavorful milk shake for the ears.

Both Sargent and White sing, but most of Evacuation's striking female vocals were provided by Mahogany's Lorraine Lelis. (The slim, stylish and sweet-voiced Sargent is the sort of focal point that most synth bands dream of; her Jean Seberg looks and soft, breathy vocals mark her as serious indie-rock crush fodder, and we look forward to hearing more of her work on future Somnambulants releases). On "In Transit", Lelis soars to the level of Opus III's Kirsty Hawkshaw. On "Countdown", guest vocalist Maki (we're going to get these attributions right some day, folks) channels Martha and the Muffins by way of Ladytron. White, in addition to dishing up those wonderful basslines, is actually responsible for the disc's most interesting vocal performances. On killer single "Evacuation", he's a sort of new wave Bryan Ferry, camping his way through the casually doom-laden lyrics. He goes even further on the gabber-fied "Monument" (check out those overmodulated beats!), pushing the vocal histrionics to Robert Hazard (or at least Ric Ocasek) levels while Sargent (there she is!) goes all robot-like in the background. "Bleeding Hearts" is pure chaotic new wave kitsch -- somewhere between Devo and Falco -- and the blurry, beautiful "Traveling Companion" gives us White as OMD's Andy McCluskey, warm and intimate but subtly eccentric.

Obvious new wave touchstones notwithstanding, Evacuation isn't an exercise in "let's name the eighties reference points" -- except for those New Order bass bits, and I'm certainly not complaining about those. The synth melodies are rich, bubbly and satisfying; they've been engineered for your pleasure, and fine-tuned to tickle your brain and get your adrenaline pumping. Given twenty-odd years of hindsight, tunes like "Bleeding Hearts" and "Evacuation" are complete in a way that few songs can claim to be -- compact, definitive summations of an established sound. They're unlikely to break any of your boundaries, or cause any clashes in your personal taste continuum, but as a high-level tribute to the form, they are sublime. - Splendid Magazine


Discography

"Fabrication & Productivity" - LP - 2000
"Evacuation" - LP - 2004
"Paper Trail" - LP - 2007

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Bio

Contrary to their title, The Somnambulants are anything but sleepy. They have been making an energetic, dance-friendly, and unique brand of indie/electro-pop since 2000.
While recording Paper Trail, the girl/boy duo kept to their own rule: avoid writing of electro songs. With one or two exceptions, they worked with rock, blues, or pop compositions and arranged them using electronic instruments. The resulting album is a mix of songwriting styles wrapped in a single synthetic wrapper, with each track as unique and memorable as the next. The Somnambulants are more indie-pop-influenced than most of their contemporaries, and that, I think, is a good thing. (Village Voice)

Stylistically, The Somnambulants are even more driven by cinematic influence, as evidenced in their lyrical imagery and spacious production. Joseph White built the first Somnambulants songs from music soundtrack pieces composed during his tenure as a film student. In fact, their name was taken from the somnambulist character Cesare - in the 1920 German film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Its fitting, therefore, that the title track from their previous album, Evacuation, appeared in the soundtrack for the Oscar-nominated film Half Nelson (Lakeshore Records).

Joseph White acts as producer, lead singer, and bass player. The duos second half is keyboardist & singer Channing Sargent. If you've seen the Somnambulants perform, no doubt you've walked away charmed by (and maybe a little smitten with) the onstage relationship between White and Channing Sargent (Jersey Independent Music/NJ.com). Together, theyve shared bills with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Tracy & the Plastics, Dirty on Purpose, Au Revoir Simone, My Favorite, Asobi Seksu, My Robot Friend, and other up-and-coming indie bands.

Founded in Brooklyn, NYC, The Somnambulants are now based in Los Angeles.