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Oneohtrix Point Never
R Plus Seven Ryan Alexander Diduck , September 24th, 2013 11:16

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Media are containers for other media. And in the 21st century, cultural productions of all stripes have themselves started acting more like media in this way: they have become containers for precedent cultural artefacts. Daniel Lopatin's work as Oneohtrix Point Never is a shining example of this phenomenon. His albums are time capsules of the hyper-immediate present, albeit ones predominantly stocked with a carefully curated past – until now. Lopatin's rash of recordings in recent years betrayed an affinity for dead forms and formats: CDRs, analogue synths, a predilection for kosmische. With an ironic wink, his 'echo jams' posted to YouTube chopped-and-screwed isolated loops of Chris de Burgh and Rush. The cover art for 2011's Replica depicted a skeletal skull reflected back in a handheld mirror. R Plus Seven, on the other hand, showcases an artist seemingly obsessed with the future, or at least what possible futures might have looked like to a teenaged utopian in 1993.

Aesthetically, Lopatin's palette for R Plus Seven consists of familiar tropes: its 10 tracks are full of brash and staccato timbres, constructed upon repetitive, nonsensical, and dislocated samples, as if fast-forwarded through. He appears curiously preoccupied by reinventing only the most piercing of preset instruments. There are liberal helpings of dyspeptic cheesiness, and his MIDI-patch choirs put the 'phony' back in polyphony.

But unlike Lopatin's preceding releases, a complex compositional strategy is afoot here. There is almost no formless wandering, and the album feels far more like a carefully constructed and well-paced narrative than a slapdash assembly of half-baked ideas. It's game-esque in structure – what you might imagine 3D printed music to sound like. You might well question whether or not Lopatin's highly stylised aesthetic, or his fastidious organisation of sounds on this particular record, is to your liking. But placing value and passing judgement are two different matters. In some ways it feels like an almost entirely academic, cerebral exercise. Read this album more like a text than listen to it as music.

Still, its most effective moments are also its most affecting, where a delicate balance is struck between mechanical and emotive. And while Lopatin's melodies are almost always anchored by an optimistic and distinctly American prettiness (think Aaron Copland meets the soundtrack for an after school special teaching moment), there is an unmistakable strategy of pleasure denial at work here. It's there in the way that 'Zebra' almost breaks into a house anthem, and present again in the 24 bars when 'Still Life' becomes a swirling trap rhapsody, only to dissolve as quickly as it formed.

R Plus Seven represents a real push by Lopatin to more deliberately treat music making under his Oneohtrix Point Never aegis as art practice as well as profession. His move to Warp Records hints at this vocational resolve, being an imprint that's known to groom artists for their longevity. And the fact remains that art is just as much labour – just as much a career – as any.

It used to be that releasing a record through a well-established label meant conforming to a kind of house style, or ceding degrees of risk-taking, in the same way that I imagine becoming a partner at a big law firm would spell the end of bleeding heart pro bono personal projects. But that trend seems to be reversing, allowing people like Lopatin to confidently deliver bolder, more fully articulated work with the cultural weight of a respected brand engine at his back. And this first release for Warp does demand to be taken seriously.

R Plus Seven marks not only an important milestone for Oneohtrix Point Never, but also for the broader historical continuum of electronic music. It's a 'where are we now?' kind of album; at its finest, it aspires to speak to the state-of-the-art. The digitally manipulated images in Takeshi Murata's promo clip for 'Problem Areas' – of chromed fruit, a Dilbert mug at its tipping point, hopelessly tangled iPod headphones – paint a striking picture of capitalist surrealism: a world in which every object is simultaneously overproduced and rendered useless. The album performs the rare double function, then, of both a container of culture, and a commentary upon it.

But people will say what they will. Over a relatively short time span, the internet has opened a whole can of new channels for the circulation and reception of music and, more than most, Lopatin's work has been at the centre of endless online discussion, speculation, and criticism. Ironically, a rather niche project like Oneohtrix Point Never arguably couldn't have found the audience it did prior to those new channels. An obvious talking point is that Lopatin makes easy work that relies heavily upon the facility afforded through technology – ultimately, and unlike the beatific, reflexive drift of his earlier work, R Plus Seven is music that's more programmed than performed. But behind that programming is a very human kind of agency, pushing the right buttons. Amidst an excess of prosumers, Lopatin proves here to be an actual pro.

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Ghost Writer
Sep 24, 2013 3:37pm

One of the more pleasant surprises of the year, Mr Lopatin keeps growing as an artist at an amazing rate...

www.youareaghost.blogspot.com

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Sep 24, 2013 3:49pm

Yeah, I never had Messiaen either, nor does the 'challenging,' 'inclusive' ethos of 'indie' schlock suggest I should ever do so. But hey, if Lopatin can 'reinvent' himself a 10th-rate Raymond Scott fifty years after the fact well, Quietus and Warp then have something ** SELL **.

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AW
Sep 24, 2013 4:16pm

It almost makes sense as it is, but shouldn't it be "predilection for kosmische"?

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austy
Sep 24, 2013 4:48pm

I dunno I listen and it sounds like unused sounds and motifs from Super Contra IV... then I yawn...

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Paul C
Sep 25, 2013 1:57am

In reply to :

Incoherent Jaded Cynic Bot strikes again...

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The Pookah McGillicuddy
Sep 25, 2013 3:05am

I don't see anyone here who's 'jaded,' rather a few people who have actually listened to a good bit of electronic and classical music and find Lopatin utterly banal by the standards of both their forms and their intersections.

As for 'entertainment,' the best is when Daniel offers his ridiculous 'theories' that loaded with just enough bullshit jargon to gull guileless pop sods into not thinking about how ridiculous he is.

Read Aristotle for starters! Then "The Tale of Genji" and then...

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Sep 25, 2013 6:16am

In reply to The Pookah McGillicuddy:

you're making good sense brother!

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Sep 25, 2013 9:11am

I could actually read and enjoy this diduck piece. Has someone started putting bromide in his tea?

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Chris
Sep 25, 2013 9:20am

In reply to The Pookah McGillicuddy:

Nicely put.

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JL
Sep 25, 2013 9:54am

Yeah, great review. Surprised by this record as I was ready to "attack" this hipster Lopatin fella. Oh well, next time for sure as he can't go out every two years releasing such good record, can he?

Also, file this together with the new Jackson's. While this is a "where are we now?" for the electroweb, Jackson is the same for the distopian-ebmnized pop. With Boards of Canada dustery elegy and Autechre exhaling a new start, we now only need Aphex Twin to return to the ultimate glory!

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L'Ferrari
Sep 25, 2013 12:18pm

In reply to The Pookah McGillicuddy:

Whoah mister, calm down your ego! Yeah, what if we read things that belong to the Frankfurt School, know who Luc Ferrari, Ighor Whakevitch and Bernard Parmegiani are, enjoy their work and still enjoy this music? Descrediting everything as banal because you think you already 'know' too much means you're situated very high on the alps of your mind, go down a little bit and interact with us the mortals. To me it seems that everyone nowadays tries too hard to be like a jr. Scaruffi, and Scaruffi is just a middle-aged snob that thinks he can write critical pieces about music.

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Rory Gibb
Sep 25, 2013 2:28pm

In reply to The Pookah McGillicuddy:

What L'Ferrari said. I know plenty of people who "have actually listened to a good bit of electronic and classical music" but find a lot of Lopatin's work pretty compelling. It's possible enough just to not like something without seeing fit to discredit everyone who does as lacking knowledge/intellect. For my money R Plus Seven is slightly patchy in places but it's tremendous in others, and it's good to hear Lopatin taking his music into new territories. The second half of the album in particular is great.

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Sep 25, 2013 4:21pm

Lol at people who thinks they hear something remotely interesting in this bollocks and reeling now that they are called out so perfectly.. This album is just terrible, and the clearest case of emperor's new clothes in a while

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John Doran
Sep 25, 2013 6:23pm

In reply to :

Ok, I'm getting bored of this now. From now on posts that aren't about OPN's music will be deleted. Also I'll expect this to be a lounge bar not saloon bar conversation from now on... why? Well, it's my site and that's how I feel about it. We get that there are two guys who read this site who totally 'get' that OPN is overrated. (I sometimes agree with them.) But the snide way they're going about it is getting on my helmet now. You have your polite warning. Cheers.

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aaron.
Sep 25, 2013 7:36pm

In reply to The Pookah McGillicuddy:

Hi, as someone who has just published a paper on Aristotle's technē and its relation to the posthuman conditions of postmodernity (with recourse to Heidegger, Gadamer and Merleau-Ponty), I am wondering just what exactly you mean by the (rather sententious) enjoinder to 'read Aristotle' w/r/t Lopatin's work. Could you elaborate, please? I've fulfilled your reading list - please deliver your lecture material herewith. Likewise, I've been listening to classical, electronic and experimental music for quite a few years now, and I still find this latest effort quite compelling and worth its fair dozen 'reaching a verdict' listens. Am I doing something wrong? You are making me feel inadequate. Please advise.
And congratulations for managing to look pompous on a Diduck article (the review itself was very good).

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aaron.
Sep 25, 2013 7:39pm

In reply to JL:

I don't really rate the Jackson (nor the BoC too much, really), but yes, the 'state of affairs' is starting to feel a bit cyclical. Don't forget the latest u-Ziq compilation and LP, and a new Arovane album (!) that has just come out. Daedelus, too, if you want to associate his early material with that same early noughties set of IDM/glitch-makers. Ditto Machinedrum (RIP, scene Pariah).

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Elliot
Sep 26, 2013 10:53am

In reply to :

"The Emperor's New Clothes" is the single most overused criticism on the internet and I'm certain you're not quite sure what it means. I suspect that you saw it written somewhere and took it to mean "people like things what I don't". It doesn't. It refers to a strange social phenomenon that simply doesn't apply here. OPN doesn't have the mass appeal necessary for this term to apply. I don't think anyone does, these days.

Your use of this term, in conjunction with your opening "lol", just screams that you're to be ignored, as you have nothing of any worth to offer here.

"Reeling now that they are called out so perfectly" - what does that even mean? I'm serious. What does that even mean?

Go back to doling out one star reviews of Pitchfork's BNM on Amazon.

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Moonee Ponds
Sep 26, 2013 11:13am

In reply to John Doran:

Wouldn't it make sense to stop people commenting without being registered first? Unattributed & multiple-pseudonymous posting really drags the comments section down these days...

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Sep 26, 2013 12:25pm

In reply to The Pookah McGillicuddy:

Go to bed, Leyland...

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Jl
Sep 26, 2013 2:03pm

In reply to aaron.:

Oh my post was not that ironic. It was actually a back to form from Warp. Not in actual quality but in relevance to keep the speech going. Funny you mention Machinedrum. I listen to his Vapor Worn yesterday and I was quite impressed. But to respect John's wishes I will only write another thing about OPN.

Frankly, if we are going to bash him out for being lazy, bad, abnoxious, boring et al. it won't be this time around. In fact R Plus Seven is probably one of the most impressive of his works. In 20 years I'm not sure if people will remember Replica, or much of Returnal(even most of Rifts). But I'll bet this one will be though

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josh
Sep 26, 2013 2:11pm

opinion on this may sort of depend on how much Next Gen someone has watched.

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Jinkie
Sep 27, 2013 3:34am

Listening to OPN makes me wanna grub on some butt.

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Mad von Hatter
Sep 28, 2013 6:21am

Why oh why does all this hipster electronic stuff sound as if someone has copied and remade Bill Nelsons 80s instrumental albums ?! Check Youtube for "A Catalogue of Obsessions", "The Summer of God's Piano", "Chamber of Dreams"...

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Troll hunter
Sep 29, 2013 8:17pm

In reply to The Pookah McGillicuddy:

LOL that its an open secret Leyland Kirby spends his time anonymously trolling younger artists online. Graceful...

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