The sleepwalker, as a metaphor, is all about indistinct edges, mismatched images, unexpected changes, and the freaky realization that your body can still act, even while your mind is somewhere else entirely.
It’s a surrealist’s ideal image, pointing towards a space of pure, undifferentiated possibility where seemingly anything could happen without conscious intention.
Thus is Noah Deemer’s new EP of the same name, full of buzzing synthesizers, non sequiturs, and a crazed mismatch of approaches that somehow flow by in a half-recognized haze.
After years of playing with the Toddlers, Gross Ghost, No One Mind, and many other Chapel Hill art-pop groups, Deemer (his given name is Noah Dehmer, but he plays as Noah Deemer) steps into the leader role for the first time here with bedroom psych that is as woozy as it is self-assured.
Take, for instance, the drum-machine waltz of “Underwater Green / Counting Down,” in which three or four different singers/narrators describe some abstract decadence over a sea of Fender Rhodes, saxophone punches, and burbling feedback.
The ground seems to dissolve as everything becomes aqueous, but it doesn’t seem to matter. (Is there a more perfect sleepwalking instrument than a drum machine playing a soft, skeletal beat? It just keeps pattering, unaware of anything going on around it. Deemer certainly isn’t the first to take advantage of this particular mood, but he uses it so well.)
And the Ohsees-like heavy psych of “Please Life” feels more like a passing dream than a real disturbance or change in direction—even if I kinda wish Deemer spent more time in this particular somnambulation. More than anything, Deemer seems to be drawing on the many moods of Angelo Badalamenti to color the instrumental components of his dreamworlds.
The EP’s titular centerpiece seems to channel the theme music from Twin Peaks through a mix of vibraphone, fuzz guitar leads, and synthesizers working through a melody rife with portentous yet strangely unhurried chord progressions. There is a ton of activity on the surface, none of which seems to disturb its overarching stillness.
It is nominally wakeful—it’s maybe the only track with live drums—but also fully submerged. And when Deemer starts languidly singing “sleepwalker” over and over in the song’s closing moments, it’s like an incantation, although who is doing the conjuring and what is being conjured remains unclear.
He seems to be reaching for some perfectly Lynchian transcendental space, one which he chooses, wisely, to inhabit just briefly. To dwell there for too long would risk bursting the bubble and waking up disoriented in some unknown and potentially terrifying spot.
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