The latest Oneohtrix Point Never album, R Plus Seven, finds Daniel Lopatin embracing some of the Windows 95-inspired musical aesthetic of fellow laptop whiz James Ferraro’s 201l LP Far Side Virtual. R Plus Seven, like Ferraro’s album, immerses itself in nostalgia for dated technology and computer game soundtracks. But the music also evokes something distinctly contemporary, perhaps the sensory overload one experiences after devoting too much time to a late-night internet search.
On Lopatin’s album, Steve Reich-ian, motoric rhythmic patterns voiced on sine-wave synths appear suddenly, cutting short whatever the preceding texture is like a pop-up window (“Boring Angel”). A reverb-drenched choir preset and quantized radio static are quickly subsumed by a repeating figure assigned to a synth vibraphone and horn section straight off of Peter Gabriel IV (“Americans”). The musical structures are pointillistic and jerky, organized along the same lines as avant-garde electroacoustic music. The songs make playful use of the stereo image and silence; they let sounds be themselves in a distilled, immediate form instead of allowing them to develop over time. Sharp noises are added and subtracted as if they were hastily deleted from Lopatin’s sound program; cuts between musical thoughts appear as suddenly as a ‘80s hip-hop break.
This album is not primarily rooted in Rifts’ tectonic blocks of sound, or the pseudo-pop songforms of Returnal. It’s certainly quite far from the dubstep grooves of Replica. It’s something new: Lopatin at his most frenetic, creating his equivalent of Stravinskian, montage-like musical structures. This approach makes R Plus Seven denser than any music he has yet released. In its frequent and illusory shifts of timbre and style, it recalls his deft, highly improvisatory live performances. Into its free-for-all universe of lush synth choirs (“Still Life”) and Green Gartside-ish MIDI instruments (“Problem Areas”), it draws natural sounds and vocal snippets. These are assimilated fluidly into the texture by Lopatin’s choice of processing and reverbs.
On R Plus Seven, Lopatin distinguishes himself both from his other work and from other artists working in a similar vein. This music has elements in common with the work of artists like Gold Panda and Four Tet, but Lopatin subverts easy comparisons at every turn. Like the small black doorway between the two portals on the record’s cover, the music on R Plus Seven creates a mysterious and isolated sonic environment: one squarely positioned between the two extremes of artificial and organic sound. The elements do not seem in conflict with one another; they are drawn into one another through Lopatin’s mixer to create a cohesive concept.