Tune in to ‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’
Ryan Israel | Tuesday, November 3, 2020
Some time between sundown and sunup, the black-on-black meeting of the narrow winding road and the hollow, empty horizon is broken up by the stanchions of modernity, the piercing neon pronouncements of business and the arrival of civilization. The static on the car radio gives way to the friendly canned sweeper of your favorite station, one oh six point something. But the noises that travel through the airwaves and eventually emanate from the stereo are not ones of Top 40 hits, classic rock or pointless banter; they are radiating synths, shimmering piano, chopped vocals; they are the sounds of the road and the night, one balancing on top of the other; they are the music of Daniel Lopatin, the creations of Oneohtrix Point Never.
As Oneohtrix Point Never, Lopatin has spent the last decade and change moving through an underground world of experimental and electronic avant-garde music, steadily accumulating acclaim and notoriety. He has made hard pivots in style (from “Replica” to “R Plus Seven,” for instance), soundtracked the films of indie brethren the Safdie Brothers’, “Good Time” and “Uncut Gems,” and collaborated across the board, working with Alex G, FKA Twigs and, most recently, The Weeknd on his extravagant album “After Hours.” Lopatin’s latest work, “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never,” presents the artist in summation, melding the aesthetic and sonic appeal of Oneohtrix Point Never into a grand mid-career album.
Across 17 songs, Lopatin generates and operates within a futuristic, digital soundscape equally occupied by the synthesizer and the collected melodies of faded memories. The vibe is eerie; the cold, calculated and metallic sounds of technological modernity, harkening back to ’80s new age music, borderline vaporwave and reminiscent of the “Stranger Things” theme, leave little room for calm. From the warped vocals and clashing, discordant nature of “I Don’t Love Me Anymore” to the shimmering chimes of “Bow Ecco” and ever-shifting patterns of “Tales From Trash Stratum,” the music of “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never” is one of cybernated sounds.
But spaces of comfort form within the cold; any hints of alienation give way to familiarity. It’s in the vibrating strings and fluid vocals of “Long Road Home,” the cinematic conclusion to “Lost But Never Alone” and the transcendent chorus of “No Nightmares,” sung by The Weeknd himself, that “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never” finds its heart. The chirping songbirds of the album’s penultimate track, “Wave Idea,” lead into the atmospheric intro of the closing track, “Nothing’s Special,” which ends in a chaotic, disquieting flurry. It’s a small transition which captures the two thematic sides of the album as a whole.
Completing the aura of “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never” is the visual work of Robert Beatty — the artist responsible for the album’s dripping hexagonal cover and accompanying inner sleeves — preserved in the digital landscape through Spotify’s Canvas feature. His catalogue of album art, discussed in depth with Stereogum and including the iconic cover of Tame Impala’s “Currents,” crosses psychedelic and retro borders, matching Lopatin’s ultramodern energy as Oneohtrix Point Never.
Lopatin based his pseudonym on Boston radio station Magic 106.7, misheard as Oneohtrix Point Never, and draws on radio conventions for the album’s four interludes. Thus, it seems fitting that “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never” is an eponymous project; it tunes the radio to a station which picks up and rearranges the key elements Lopatin’s previous work as Oneohtrix Point Never.
Artist: Oneohtrix Point Never
Album: “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never”
Favorite tracks: “Long Road Home,” “No Nightmares”
If you like: The Safdie Brothers, Aphex Twin, Computers
Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5