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Oneohtrix Point Never’s ‘Good Time’ soundtrack is a haunting time

| Tuesday, August 29, 2017

oneohtrix webSusan Zhu

Who’s saying the soundtrack to the crime thriller “Good Time” is just another product of ’80s nostalgia? Sure, the frantic arpeggio that inaugurates the soundtrack record — produced by Daniel Lopatin (a.k.a Oneohtrix Point Never) — is eerily reminiscent of the mystical, spacey synth on “Blush Response,” from the original soundtrack to “Blade Runner” (1982) produced by Vangelis. And maybe the cold, psychedelic moments of quietude aren’t far from what we heard on last year’s decidedly nostalgic “Stranger Things,” if you read between the scanlines.

But just because synthesizers were in vogue during the ‘80s doesn’t mean that everything imbued with them is waxing retrograde. True, film soundtracks have reverted to their perennial preference for the orchestral (see: Hans Zimmer) in the past couple of decades. That said, Oneohtrix Point Never has always been a pioneer of experimental electronic music devoid of historical position — feeling neither vintage, contemporary nor futuristic.

In other words: What did you expect? Rather than a crowd-pleasing gimmick, Lopatin’s soundtrack is an inventive feat that reimagines the role of musical accompaniment. After all, not only is the haunting synthesizer work just as powerful as Zimmer’s strings — if anything, the electronic production is leagues ahead in terms of capturing the source work’s themes and aesthetic.

Lopatin does this by employing unique production techniques, some of which he shaped and popularized himself. On the stressful “Bail Bonds,” he blurs the boundaries of dialogue and soundtrack, looping and layering an agitated character’s fearfully delivered lines with a dizzying echo effect that mimics a mental breakdown. Though fittingly unpleasant given the emotion it conveys, the track’s first minute is a rare perfect moment as far as film soundtracks go.

“Ray Wakes Up” is an uncharacteristically busy track, and the more engaging for it. It begins with an argument underlined by a rattling grumble that bleeds — like a sonic L-cut, if you will — onto a pitched-down newscast on the film’s earlier events. The track then shifts seemingly into a drug-induced mania, with intermittent shouts over a subduing ocean of formless sound.

Though the title track itself is fully instrumental, it sounds as though extracted from one of Oneohtrix Point Never’s studio albums — impressively succeeding in mirroring the quality of his standalone releases. Fusing ethereal chorales, doom-filled drones and pulsating submarine synths, it’s easily the record’s most dynamic track. Additionally, “Good Time” avoids the aimless electronic knob-twiddling into which other instrumental tracks occasionally devolve.

Yes, I said it. As expected, Lopatin faces film soundtracks’ familiar trappings on this record: How to produce a unique record that highlights one’s skills, while remaining memorable and dynamic without distracting from the source work? It’s quite likely impossible, but some have come close — see Geinoh Yamashirogumi’s “AKIRA” soundtrack.

In any case, Lopatin’s effort is admirable. His inimitable craftsmanship, in particular, saves him. That said, while there are no obvious failures on the “Good Time” soundtrack, there are too many moments that fall somewhat flat.

Whether or not they function in the context of the film, uneventful tracks like “Leaving the Park” and “Hospital Escape / Access-A-Ride” make me want to never hear an arpeggio again. They’re too reminiscent of Lopatin’s production circa 2015’s “Garden of Delete” — an overrated record that is easily among his worst, precisely for its monochromatic sonic palette.

Given the strength of tracks like “Bail Bonds” and “Ray Wakes Up,” Lopatin would have been wise to emphasize unique production techniques that make use of dialogue and other organic sound — it would have been right up his alley, in any case.

Overall, even if it’s lacking in the way of replay value as a standalone record, Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Good Time” soundtrack — qua soundtrack — is quality work from a quality artist.

 

Artist: Oneohtrix Point Never

Album: “Good Time OST”

Label: Warp Records

Favorite Track: “Bail Bonds,” “Good Time”

If you like: Vangelis, S U R V I V E

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5

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