We all can remember many sleepless nights during the long lockdown that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, many of us still have residual insomnia at the very least. The worries, fears and tragedies humanity went through in those two years sometimes feel like a distant memory but we’re all still dealing with that collective trauma, and there’s still loads of important art inspired by that time being released now. Never Sleep, Paul Feder’s follow-up to his first seminal EP Nightwalk is one such work from the COVID and continued post-COVID era that’s both relatable and soothing to those of us still struggling.
Feder’s work has always seemed to have a heavy personal and contemplative bent, even when he’s remixing someone else’s track (a’la his emotional rework of “Mental Abrasions” by Jane in Space or the vocal-turned-future bass version of Holly Abraham’s single “Shore”). Heavily influenced by early synth pop and electronica, Nightwalk was a dreamy as its eponym suggests but it’s all done with the help of vintage styles and techniques. For Never Sleep, the vintage cachet was even more real when Feder discovered his 90s era Yamaha keyboard in his parents’ attic.
In early 2021 I unearthed my 90’s Yamaha CS2X keyboard from my parents’ attic and began to play, channeling pandemic anxiety into what would become the title track of the EP. Never Sleep is dedicated to my father, Jack Feder, who kept encouraging me to “finish the songs!”
So for Feder, Never Sleep becomes not just an anxiety-fueled COVID project but literally the product of a mandate from his dad, who seemed to be one of this biggest fans. The tie-ins with the tracks also now become even more resonant for both Feder and those in the audience going through grief. The EP opener and title track starts with an emotional swell before launching into a dream pop-forward house beat as the lyrics are both dadaist and dreamy. Feder reveals himself as a storyteller in this track lyrically, as he describes his own sleepless nights in detail so great, one can almost picture the scene. Feder also showcases his style diversity here as he switched seamlessly from EDM to future bass in a way that will remind dream pop fans of M83 or Sigur Ross.
The second track on the EP, “Home” is both simple and existential, as Feder tackles the concept of home and how, as we age, that comfort and feeling man had growing up seems to fade and it’s almost a loss of identity in the process. Losing a parent definitely amplifies this feeling, so knowing Feder’s impetus for these lyrics drives the point even further “home.” Using a lot of vaporwave tones and a wistful string accompaniment adds to the mood as Feder keeps the music relatively simple: the feeling of “home,” after all, is simple.
“Wonderful Day” is lyrically perhaps the track that most directly addresses Feder’s father’s passing, but again it’s treated with reference and reflection rather than anger or anguish. The repeated vocoder lines “this is the end of the line…I hope you have a wonderful day,” and “don’t leave anything behind” reflect a hope many of us have for our loved ones when they pass: while death is inevitable, we hope they pass with peace, nothing left unsaid and that their next step is a nice one. For so many people who lost family and friends during COVID, this closing track can hopefully provide some comfort and the chugging beat and synths a reminder that this is all part of a bigger journey.
Paul Feder addresses and also puts to rest some big existential questions in the three tracks of Never Sleep. Both recovering from collective trauma and grieving are, indeed, an ongoing process but Feder’s dreamy, vintage synth style is a soothing reprieve from the cares of the last few years, whether personal or collective. Whether Feder “never sleeps” again, he did, in fact, “finish the songs.”
Never Sleep is out now and can be streamed on Feder’s Spotify Page.
This article was first published on Your EDM. Source: ‘Never Sleep’: Paul Feder Releases a Dreamy Tribute to His Late Father