Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica

By , Nov 7 2011

Available on: Software LP

Daniel Lopatin has managed to steer his Oneohtrix Point Never persona through a genuinely enthralling journey over the years. Part of this has been the quick establishment of a distinct style and a seemingly endless ability to generate huge amounts of material at a consistently high standard. But another aspect is the  balanced approach to the project’s development overall; through a level-headed use of unexpected decisions – risks, even – Lopatin has managed to evolve the sound of Oneohtrix Point Never while maintaining a familiarity that is easy to embrace.

Replica only seals this admirable reputation further, marking his most dramatic stylistic changes to date. Hallmarks of Lopatin’s style remain – the thick harmonic progressions and long-form melodies – and these closest resemble material from previous album Returnal where they occur. But where Returnal marked a development from earlier, cleaner analogue voicings and arpeggiations into a dirtier, more challenging textural terrain, Replica develops where Returnal itself left off – the writhing percussion sample textures and ghostly warblings of ‘Preyouandi’.

Here in Replica, it is still Lopatin’s remarkable ability to self-impose dynamic structures that gives each track an individual character. However, the resulting constructions are now built from new materials with new properties, and the technical move to do so has been quite a simple one; to largely replace synthesizer melodies and harmonies with samplers and fragments of audio.

This creates a whole new set of considerations, options and restrictions, and Lopatin has deftly managed to balance the simplicity and complexity available to him with the technique. Samples are used as blocks of content, placed, swept and maneuvered around a defined space. Units of sound are juxtaposed precisely, rotating independently while packed against each other in streams of longer progressions. When permitted space they wash and bump against each other like ushered, subtly organised clouds. Lopatin handles their arrangements effortlessly, like cards being shuffled, cut, dealt, and collected.

Re-pitching and looping of samples provide the vast majority, if not the entirety of any audio manipulation. As has been re-invigorated by the vocals of works by Burial, even as the most basic of musique concrète processes the fundamental relationship between timbre, duration and pitch of sampled audio can be fascinating in itself, and Replica explores this thoroughly.

Combined with an extremely particular palette of material, this restriction only heightens the surreal, dream-like quality of the results. Nostalgia occurs on an aesthetic level – much of the album’s sampled content having apparently been selected from a compilation of TV advertisement cues, thus giving it a particular timbral and cultural imprint – but also within the development of the compositions themselves. Motifs are introduced and reoccur within tracks constantly, quickly-looped moments then reoccurring as larger cycles return, sometimes transforming, sometimes placed alongside other surprises. Layers of harmony, melody and more freely assigned audio complete the works, providing unpredictable variation, moments of surprise and heartfelt transformation as these samples busy themselves according to orders beneath.

The outcome is extraordinarily comparable to the warped perception and organisation of thoughts and memories during dreams, as familiar objects and scenarios take on their own sense in entirely unfamiliar and impossible ways, sleep applying its own importance and identity to them. The effect is sublime, the finished record a distinct, surprising but wholly understandable side-step into material only previously flirted with. Comparable in this sense to Bjork’s Medulla it shares the same personal ambition, accomplishment and dedication to exploring new compositional techniques. More than anything, however, Replica places Lopatin at the centre of his own custom-made micro-cosmos, patiently and lovingly watching his creations interact, guiding them and wrapping them in detail.

Steve Shaw

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