Oneohtrix Point Never - Magic Oneohtrix Point Never Music Album Reviews

Oneohtrix Point Never - Magic Oneohtrix Point Never Music Album Reviews
Daniel Lopatin’s latest doesn't swerve in a new direction but instead serves as an overlook for his career, highlighting his skill at splicing the old and the new in continually fascinating ways.

Like any handover of power, a radio-station format change—from country to classic rock, say, or Top 40 to oldies—follows a loose script. A farewell from the outgoing station manager, a second or two of dead air, and then the benediction from the victorious new regime. No wax seals memorialize these fleeting events; no toppled statues litter the ground. But they are charged moments nonetheless, admissions of failure and also statements of continuity: The king is dead, long live the king.
Brief snippets of such format flips are threaded throughout Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, Daniel Lopatin’s first album since his Uncut Gems soundtrack. Gathered from an online archive, they’ve been manipulated and sequenced to sound like a kind of cartoonish Greek chorus. These “eulogies,” as he has called them—for outmoded styles, written-off market segments, abandoned listeners—are nonetheless, in the manner of commercial radio, relentlessly upbeat; they seem to proclaim that American lives are nothing but second acts, perpetually being erased and reset. “Somehow the music we grew up listening to doesn’t relate to our adult reality and our new dreams,” says a disk jockey in one of a handful of format-flip interludes, surrounded by murky, atonal flourishes. His garbled voice rises in pitch as easy-listening piano blossoms in the background. “The main question to mind is, Have you changed? And the answer is, uh, yes.”

At this stage in his career, “I’ve changed” would not be a terribly revelatory statement from Oneohtrix Point Never. In recent years, Lopatin has become a skilled choreographer of wrongfooting listeners’ expectations, trading the vaporous textures of his early work for the overdriven “hypergrunge” of Garden of Delete and then the almost incomprehensible world building and dizzyingly recombinant styles of Age Of. It’s tempting to look for an autobiographical subtext in Magic Oneohtrix Point Never; recall that Lopatin took his moniker from Boston’s Magic 106.7, which provided the gauzy soft-rock backdrop of his youth. But Magic, which was created largely during the pandemic, is not so much a format change in Lopatin’s discography as an inflection point or perhaps simply an overlook: an opportunity to take stock of where he’s been and where he might go next.

In sound and feel, Magic frequently dwells on familiar sounds and tropes, many of which return to Replica and R Plus Seven. The album is thick with sounds that blur the line between the fake and the real, like plucked and bowed strings, reed, harpsichord, hammered dulcimer, and marimba. Whether sampled, synthesized, or acoustic, they are rich with implicit physicality, evocative of stretching and striking; processed voices are carved into curved, glistening shapes, uncanny as ice sculptures. It’s a ridiculously opulent palette. The thrumming strings of “Long Road Home,” a sort of Mike Oldfield-esque ballad featuring a largely unrecognizable Caroline Polachek, could easily be repurposed for an Audi commercial, while the slicing bows and THX-grade sound effects of “Shifting” evoke big-budget Hollywood blockbusters.

“Every song is an opportunity to freak somebody out,” Lopatin has said; the most audacious thing about Magic Oneohtrix Point Never is probably a co-executive producer credit for Abel Tesfaye, aka notorious R&B rapscallion the Weeknd, who reached out to Lopatin after hearing his score for Josh and Benny Safdie’s 2017 film Good Time. After both worked on the Safdies’ Uncut Gems, Lopatin ended up working on a few tracks for the Weeknd’s After Hours. Tesfaye appears only once here—on “No Nightmares,” an ’80s-inspired power ballad reminiscent of Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away”—but Lopatin credits Tesfaye’s feedback in helping to shape the album. (“I needed someone to give me perspective on what I was doing as a music fan because he’s got unbelievable taste,” Lopatin told The Guardian. “He was like: ‘Burn it down! This is an OPN record!’ I was like: ‘Oh yeah, I forgot!’ He was really in my corner as a friend.”) Still, Tesfaye’s fingerprints are not obvious; even on “No Nightmares,” which also features Polachek, his customary falsetto is vocodered beyond recognition, and the lyrics are free of his signature tales of sex, drugs, and self-loathing.

One of a handful of pop-adjacent songs on Magic, “No Nightmares” is probably the album’s nadir. It could be that the world simply doesn’t need another “Take My Breath Away,” no matter how ambiguously tongue in cheek; it could be that Lopatin’s principal talent is not in writing pop songs. The really moving parts of Magic happen in its more abstracted tracks, which fortunately comprise the bulk of the album. Following Lopatin’s movements can feel like watching a tornado tear through a fabric mill, ribbons of color spilling out in every direction. In “Bow Ecco,” shoals of harpsichord swirl around plangent woodwinds, directionless yet somehow compelling; “The Whether Channel” (surely one of his best titles yet) arrays sweetly blippy synths over cascading dulcimer and dissonant drones in a way that makes chaos feel somehow lyrical.

Lopatin has a remarkable talent for giving shape and movement to an indistinct mass of sonic matter, setting it in motion like a baton-wielding maestro conducting a murmuration of starlings. “Tales From the Trash Stratum” is as beautiful and incomprehensible a piece of music as Lopatin has written. Out of a fog of radio-dial swirl emerge first a blast of noise and then delicate mallet percussion; it soon sounds like Oval taking his Sharpie to a Steve Reich CD against a backdrop of synthetic birdsong, running water, Ren Faire flutes, spaceship whirr, and what might be the startup chime of a vintage Mac hybridized with Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd’s The Moon and the Melodies. Except you barely notice any of these things as discrete sounds; taken together, it all simply sounds like Oneohtrix Point Never.

What is so moving about these radically abstracted pieces is their instability and their impermanence; they are always in the process of becoming or disintegrating, and the listener accustomed to OPN’s way of working soon comes to understand that no moment of beauty will last for long; that even the most gorgeous passage will soon crumble to noise—or, worse, become something tacky and distasteful, a song you can’t change the radio dial fast enough to turn off. In this sense, there’s something poignant even in the album’s ugliest bits.

Magic Oneohtrix Point Never touches upon all Lopatin’s usual themes: memory and forgetting, nostalgia, the mystery of taste. But where his treatment of those ideas can sometimes seem academic, the album is shot through with a powerful and pervasive sense of melancholy. He told GQ, “I put all of these dead air moments throughout the record—eulogies—to make them say something that felt personal to me as far as my own career, as well as what was happening to the country.” Seen in that light, his sample flips are signs not just of impermanence but also division, of a body politic cleaved in two. It’s a disheartening thought. Toward the end of the album, a disk jockey chirps, “There’ll only be a memory of the music you heard over the years, but the country will not die—it exists at a new home, and I’m sure that home’ll give it the space to grow.” Another announcer’s voice is spliced in: “This has been—this. And this dream is the sound. And this dream will self-destruct in 3… 2…” Drowned out by churning loops of tone, he never gets to finish his sentence. Like other albums created during the pandemic, Magic Oneohtrix Point Never is steeped in the loneliness and disorientation of the present moment. What sets it apart is Lopatin’s willingness to face—with tenderness but little sentimentality—the uncertainty of what might await us on the other side.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Oneohtrix Point Never - Magic Oneohtrix Point Never Music Album Reviews Oneohtrix Point Never - Magic Oneohtrix Point Never Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, November 06, 2020 Rating: 5

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