Experimenting with Electronic: Oneohtrix Point Never

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really listen to much electronic music. However, there has recently been a series of releases both from exciting new acts (Disclosure) and those with more distinguished reputations (Boards of Canada) that have gotten me to reconsider my previous ambivalence toward the genre. So, naturally, being the open-minded and curious music reviewer I am, I jumped on the new Oneohtrix Point Never album. It seemed a good starting point – the name even sounds electronic – and I’ve known of the project by reputation for a year or so, but just never got around to caring.

After listening to “R Plus Seven” by Daniel Lopatin, the artist behind Oneohtrix, I can safely say that while it may not have been totally in line with my expectations, it was a fascinating experience and a journey to a realm of the avant-garde that I’ve never heard before. The most apparent of the album’s major tendencies and ideas is its disjointedness. The melodies, rhythms and textures convulse in every which way, at times seeming to follow only Lopatin’s personal, spasmodic logic. His repertoire of sounds, while on first listen undoubtedly puzzling, coheres in certain stretches of the album ethereally and beyond reason. Expanses of vast choral synth tones gives impressions of wide plains in “Americans” before an intricate, bouncy outro that gives a full impression of the artist’s gift for abstract synthesis that manages to remain surprisingly tuneful. Following immediately is “He She,” which is a densely layered and concise whirlwind, including a bass that imitates a roaring tiger and its basis on gong-crash repetitions of percussion, and an enigmatic, tribal vocal track.

A strain I noticed throughout the record was the artist’s tendency to deconstruct the core musical components and warp them within a hair’s breadth of recognition whenever things got a little too conventional, creating an incredibly disconcerting and visceral effect. This actually happens quite often, because for all his gifts as an avant-garde sound artist, Lopatin actually writes some stunning

melodies and hypnotic, consuming loops. It was a source of considerable frustration for a while to have these little runs bubble up on a track only for them to disappear almost as abruptly, but a more holistic appreciation of the album reconciles this. In the more aggressive jerkiness of some samples and the placid, monotonous stretches of other soaring tones, the suppler and accessibly beautiful notes and passages lend some easier resonance and receive a disconnectedness of reason that underpins some of their mystery.

“R Plus Seven” is not for the faint of heart or the very casual listener. The simple fact is that they will get bored or put off by sheer strangeness of Oneohtrix Point Never’s music. If you’ve felt the impulse to expand your musical horizon into the prohibitively deep waters of electronic music, though, the music on this record is haunting and fascinating enough to be more than worth checking out. Listen to the whole album.

Contact Eric Reimund at [email protected].