Sunday, January 8, 2012

Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica

I must admit to only really giving Oneohtrix Point Never any sort of attention because of this

The fact that Daniel Lopatin could take such a ridiculously maligned fragment of music and honestly and completely unironically tease such immeasurable beauty out of it indicated to me a sonic alchemy: The ability to turn shit into gold or at the very least, to successfully polish a turd.

His use of pitch shifting, speed control and looping of short samples, while not new techniques were employed in such a way so as to forge a new path of psychedelic discovery as if parallel plateaus from the recent pasts were accessible when the grain or texture of these signifiers became more apparent.

The analogue synth, arpeggio dominated work from his official releases of Drifts and Returnal tended to paint in broader strokes, carving out infinite vistas, with the latter indicating the beginnings of a more digital world.

While his work with Joel Ford in both Games and Ford & Lopatin has placed some of these 80’s fetishist constructs into a more pop song context with varying successes sometimes erring on the side of self-parody, Replica, at least on the surface, appears to offer a best-of-both-worlds: That of the OPN rigorous compositional ear and synth drone and the echo jams of corporate identity as mantra.

Things start off as business as usual with Andro - the type of OPN track that shares some similarity with a certain type of Boards of Canada vignette – mostly due to the presence of similar analogue hardware. But while BOC are more likely to invoke a hash warmed feeling of head nodding familiarity Lopatin is always aimed directly at the heart of the sun towards wide-eyed wonder.

Only by the third track, Sleep Dealer are his intentions made clear as he imagines a new kind of steampunk where certain technologies have effectively stagnated alongside others accelerating onwards. A nanobot swarm awakens, each with their own archaic operating system boot-up chimes, forming a perfect segue into the digital Balinese monkey chant of Remember which in turn perfectly sets up the stately piano of the title track and 1st side closer. Piano should not be too much of a foreign instrument in the OPN universe after being employed with devastating effect on the reworking of Returnal’s title track in collaboration with Antony Hegarty. It is equally affecting here, together with some beautifully complex synth articulations and modulations, like some mechanistic search for sentience.

Deliberate or not, the rather chilling similarities of the album cover with a rather more famous Escher self-portrait and therefore, by association, to the work of Douglas Hofstadter, do no disservice to this album’s vision.
Naussau takes things in a rather pointillist direction verging on the annoying where Lopatin takes a rather incongruous collection of samples and forces them to submit to his composition's internal logic, or is that the listener who is being forced? There are some interesting similarities with some of the work of Books, Nuno Canavarro, Robert Ashley as well as the musique concrete hip-hop of El-P.

Submersible revisits more classic territory and then both Up and Child Soldier initially jar with their aggressive cut-and-paste assaults. The latter being marginally more successful in that it molds its beauty out of its own established internal logic rather than somewhat apologetically retracting its initial statements in favour of more serene sounds. Vocal “ah’s” and clipped phonemes over more familiar synth drone terrain of closer Explain round off this series of tracks that should be regarded as a triumph and indication that Lopatin appears far from exhausting his sonic palette or ideas.

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