Digital Dream sees Deap Vally explore realms of romanticism and crushing realism in an EP that, while at times a little inconsistent, offers a distinctly eclectic journey.
If the past twelve months have proven one thing, it’s that California-bred duo Deap Vally aren’t ones to shy away from collaborative opportunities. Last year saw them morph into supergroup Deap Lips alongside The Flaming Lips for an album of the same name, and Digital Dream holds a similarly collectivist being.
Five different artists make up the guestlist within the EP’s four tracks, and as an effort to display a depth in versatility Digital Dream is a huge success. The inclusion of Warpaint bassist jennylee (Jenny Lee Lindberg) is a refreshing one, both in part to Warpaint’s absence over the past five years and the resultant opening track, ‘Look Away’, a percussively ‘Just Like Honey’-esque number but with a less in-your-face presence. Does it outstay its welcome? Possibly. The finale of the repeated “Look away” refrain does seem a tad excessive given the track’s deceptively conclusive inconclusion a minute earlier.
Still, the EP’s titular track is a standout moment. Given both the now-normal state of isolation and reliance on webcams for social simulations, Soko’s chilling prediction of a post-apocalyptic technocracy is one of the most unsettling lyrical compositions of the lockdown age. The brutalist nature of the utterance “I’d like to think there is somebody by my side / Not just a robot, a computer, or a wire / And it’s so lonely here / So lonely I could scream” is as sobering as it is compelling. The flowering of the outro seems a little surprising in its quaintness, but perhaps this is a deliberately illusory escape from the oppressive surroundings that Soko and Deap Vally have expertly concocted.
‘High Horse’, the most overt and insistent track of the EP, seems a little out of place at times. It’s a good enough song, led by KT Tunstall and the highly confrontational Peaches, but following on from the absorbing nature of ‘Look Away’ and the atmosphere of ‘Digital Dream’ with a stomping parade of guitar-heavy rock seems a misstep. There are interesting moments of Berlin-era Bowie with the random sounds that creep through during the more restrained verse sections, but it doesn’t hold a particular fluency to its predecessors. ‘Shock Easy’, meanwhile is an excellently bumpy ride of a closer. It’s as if the sounds that make up the track had been accidentally found and thrown together with as little attention to mediation and comprehension as possible. This is the sort of song that really takes hold of the listener’s interest, a congregation of everything and nothing.
Digital Dream is certainly expansive in its goals, with some mixed result at certain points, but its headline act is Deap Vally’s intuition when working alongside other artists, and their ability to construct sounds that immerse with alternative voices with painless ease.