Flashback Review: The Arms of Someone New – Susan Sleepwalking

ghost track album reviewsThis article is part of a series where we review old albums from Champaign-Urbana’s past.


Susan Sleepwalking Arms of Someone NewArtist: The Arms of Someone New
Album: Susan Sleepwalking
Release: September 16, 1985 (Projekt Records)
Our Take: “Stream It”

The Arms of Someone New create a dark and soft atmosphere as if wandering in the middle of a deep dream on the 1985 release Susan Sleepwalking. The smoothly flowing tracks gradually bring you into an odd, but comfortable dream and with cautious vocals and instrumentation, the music keeps giving fresh surprises from beginning to end.

AOSN was formed in ’85 when synth-pop was already developed as a genre and reached one of its most prevalent points. If you’ve been listening to some synth-pop, the lead vocal on Susan Sleepwalking could easily remind you of bands like New Order, Depeche Mode, and Camouflage. However, the album not only takes you back to the 80s golden age of the genre, but it also impresses you with its own characteristics in its interesting combination of synth-pop and darkwave and the natural use of guitar.

Within the first few seconds of “St. Catherine,” you might think it’s darkwave or simply ambient with the absence of a drum track. The sound of the synthesizer is twisted, leaving the listener lost. But soon after the vocals enter – like a tiny, blurring spot rapidly expanding and becoming a beam of light – the rummaging exploration towards the inner part of the dream begins. The screwy layering of synthesizers builds a deeper ambiance that envelops the entire track, instead of creating an uncomfortable atmosphere. Even without a strong bassline as typical synth-pop tracks do, the music successfully brings you into the mood with constant electronic drum beats underneath a female vocal melody that melts softly near the end of the song.

When it comes to “With Louise,” the album turns to be relaxing and soothing. The electronic guitar is clear and peaceful. Though there’s nothing that catches your ear immediately, the gems are hidden in the details. The sound of rain, the voice of children humming, and the short appearance of sound effects with a sci-fi texture all contribute to the attractiveness of this seemingly normal, ambient piece.

The whole album is worth a listen, because every track owns its own unique features. The composition isn’t complicated, but the ingenious application of synthesizers along with sound effects and variety of background vocals make the album distinctive. This album isn’t extreme, but it isn’t plain – it stands at a point where most could enjoy it.

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