With Returnal, Daniel Lopatin proves that noise can be beautiful and original. The album is a piece of (Neo?) New Age psychedelia, taking cues from the electronic experiments of the Berlin School.
Returnal by Oneohtrix Point Never. Editions Mego
By David Cooper
In Returnal, Oneohtrix Point Never (OPN), aka Daniel Lopatin, advances the stagnant noise genre, submerging the listener into a netherworld of sound, using synthesizers and computers to generate a compelling amalgamation of noise. Hailing from Wayland, MA and educated at Hampshire College, Lopatin now resides in Brooklyn. Lopatin’s moniker sourly reinterprets Boston’s own Magic 106.7 (One-oh-six-point-seven > One-oh-trix-point-never).
The first track, “Nil Admirari,” starts the album off on a harsh note. As Kevin Drumm and other contemporary noise artists have shown, there is no limit to the intensely nihilistic assault of modern noise music. “Nil Admirari” leads into “Describing Bodies,” demonstrating Lopatin’s fondness for melting synths into one another, a repeating theme throughout the album.
With “Stress Waves,” Lopatin weaves synth lines over a background of ambient tones. On the fourth track, “Returnal,” Lopatin makes a rare mistake by obscuring his beautifully written lyrics with a cop-out vocal effect. At a time when most artists use lo-fi recording equipment to hide their voice, Lopatin’s decision to do this comes off as insecure, given the power of his diction. Listen to the Returnal 7” with Antony Hegarty for a better version of this track.
Ironically, “Returnal” sets up the stronger half of the album, beginning with “Pelham Island Road.” The perfect environ for this track is blazing down the highway with the scenery streaming behind you. “Ouroburos” could be the most gorgeous song on the album, albeit the shortest. The album finishes with “Preyouandi,” recombining bits and pieces of the album before fading away, a celebratory deconstruction of what came before.
With Returnal, Lopatin has come up with a bracing example of New Age psychedelia, taking cues from the Berlin School, the chopped and screwed mentality of southern hip-hop, and the Fourth World ambience of Jon Hassell. Lopatin supports his music with intelligent interviews and videos that display his fetish for all things sci-fi. Aside from OPN, Lopatin makes “pop” music with his band Games and is currently recording a full-length album. Be sure to check out his compilation of earlier releases, Rifts.
While Lopatin’s view of the future is grimly dystopian, it is easy to be optimistic about this musician who continues to reinvent the aesthetic possibilities of noise.