Image via Somni
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Somni has a lot on his mind these days. On Gravity, his third full-length release with the venerable Friends of Friends imprint, the beat conductor born Leo Shulman addresses what it’s like to deal with the weight of the world on one’s shoulders.
Somni capably narrates us through the agita that accompanies not knowing one’s place in the world. “I think a lot (of the lyrics) are self-referencing. I’m trying to become a musician,” he tells me. “I’m 31 now, so I feel like is it even going to happen?”
While he might have questions about his own place in the scheme of things, there is no doubt that he continues to grow as an artist. Debuting as more of a bedroom beat producer in the vein of fellow L.A. artists like Teebs or Shlohmo, Somni has expanded his palette to include more complex beats and expanding into singing. Whereas his past foray on the mic on tracks like “Home” saw the artist speeding up his vocals to a pitched degree, he has fully embraced full-fledged crooning following a last minute gig at L.A hot spot, Scenario.
When an act fell through at the 11th hour, legendary producer and promoter Daddy Kev reached out to Somni, who said yes immediately. After first committing to a DJ set, however, he gave Kev a call back and declared, “I’m going to sing.” That and other performances gave him the confidence to take the full plunge on “Gravity.”
“I didn’t want to just be like the DJ guy who’s playing the songs,” Somni says. “I wanted my natural voice to sing them. It’s such an important part of music in general. It’s showing who you are.”
Like his production, Somni’s vocals are warm, fuzzy and enveloping, a perfect foil to pessimistic thoughts. His range is neither high nor low but comes across the pleasant middle occupied by Postal Service, Baths, and Koushik.
From the multi-layered opener “Fleeting” to the staticky intro of “Gravity,” Somni clearly does not subscribe to the theory that less is more or that silence is a virtue. His beats are dense, with percussion sitting atop samples sitting atop vocals, all slathered on top of one another. One need look no further than the song titles to realize that the artist-producer is here to tackle some deep topics.
In addition to the aforementioned tracks, “Hold Tight,” “Lost” and “Cracks” are not titles that lend to an optimistic outlook. And admittedly, the lyrics are weighty too.
“Forcing myself to something can be really hard sometimes. But it’s become an extra,” Somni says. “Sometimes I’ll sit down and I’ll have a melody ready, but then I’ll be like, ‘ok, well, what is this song really about. It can be really hard, but it’s almost like a therapy session.”
On “January” he laments the feeling of “needing more than you’ll ever have.” On “Running,” he educates the listener, “Forever on the edge of something big but never found a way to pull it in.” “Humans” speaks of “sad eyes and ashen rain,” yet Gravity maintains a comforting vibe. What could have been a sad and emo plunge instead is uplifted by cozy production and soothing vocals. This album isn’t fist shaking at the gods but introspective musings with a hopeful undertone.
“We have to keep trying,” Somni says. “We have to believe that things are going to be okay. I hope.”