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Friday, August 10, 2018

Oneohtrix Point Never - The Station EP Music Album Reviews


Daniel Lopatin’s latest release is less a conceptual follow-up to last month’s Age Of than a gift to hardcore fans who relish even his odds and ends.

Until recently, every full-length release from Daniel Lopatin’s Oneohtrix Point Never project possessed a single distinct and unified vision, from commercial-sampling chillwave to thunderous, mutated EDM. But June’s Age Of marked a break from that tradition, even as its conceptual sprawl surpassed that of the phases that came before it. An eclectic record that spanned hermetic electro-folk, doomy sampledelia, and the eerie loveliness of Boards of Canada, Age Of also found Lopatin rifling through his own back catalog for inspiration: If you listened closely, you could hear echoes of the pointillist early-electronic music on R Plus Seven, Garden of Delete’s neon headbanger fare, and the noisy, refracted new age of Rifts. The album didn’t represent a new aesthetic for Lopatin as much as a recontextualization of his previous work within a more pop-oriented vernacular.

Less than two months later, Lopatin has followed up that statement with a stand-alone release of Age Of’s brooding, “Schism”-meets-R&B cut “The Station,” accompanied by three previously unreleased songs. One track, “Trance 1,” dates back further than Age Of; it first surfaced in edited form on 2017’s A Message From Earth, an audiovisual tribute to NASA’s Golden Record Project. Rather than pushing his latest album’s relatively streamlined approach even further, The Station is an EP for hardcore fans who relish digging through Lopatin’s odds and ends. Its 14 minutes of previously unreleased material don’t bear any significant resemblance to the vocal-led title track, and the record makes no discernible overarching statement.

But if you’ve become fascinated with Lopatin’s unique approach to electronic music over the last decade, The Station provides some intriguing material to chew on regardless. “Trance 1” is its highlight, four minutes of zithering synth clouds and gaping drone that perfectly realize the song’s space-is-the-place intentions, while “Monody” pairs Age Of’s occasional forays into medieval harpsichord with a nasty-sounding breakbeat that opens up to reveal Lopatin’s approximation of a proper rave track. The glassy “Blow by Blow” is the collection’s weakest cut, a five-and-a-half minute suite of processed chord-shredding, water-droplet percussion, blasts of static noise, and synthetic euphoria that drifts between moods without quite cohering.

And then there’s “The Station.” Originally written for Usher, its straightforward pop sound makes it a humorously incongruous introduction to the EP’s more abstract material. Still, it makes plenty of sense as a single: It’s one of just a few Age Of cuts that feature Lopatin on lead vocals, for the first time in OPN’s existence, and it uses his singing in a fascinating way. His processed voice slithers in and out of a hypnotic bassline before the music spins out into a state of entropy, with synth lines crashing in and out of the mix as noisy squeals erupt like a DDOS attack on the song's mainframe.

“It’s an open invitation/To try to find the bottom of a bottomless hole,” Lopatin sings, early in “The Station.” Divorced from the themes of modernity-in-collapse that permeate Age Of, the lyric could be interpreted as a summary of Lopatin’s own ongoing mission to find new ways of deconstructing pop music, leaving only warped afterimages in his wake (see also: the title of Age Of’s closing track, “Last Known Image of a Song”). Much of the thrill in following his career over the last decade has come from watching where that protean vision takes OPN from album to album. By now, it’s clear that guessing what lies ahead for Lopatin based on any given release is futile. If The Station fails to offer any clues about his next move, at least we can presume that opacity is intentional.

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