Daniel Lopatin’s latest record under his main guise, Oneohtrix Point Never, develops a tone somewhere between the melancholy of impending meltdown or, more extreme, apocalypse, and the enchantment of infinite space. One pulls on or becomes the other. An existence hemmed in by the moves allowed by a grid dissolves the grid and its moves become the measure of the world in a space of infinite possibilities. Something like that is what I think repeatedly, but always in a different way while listening to it. And what about the reflected skeleton on the cover, or the title, Replica? What arena are those containers standing us in?
To begin somewhere completely different, those poles the record plays between are also states of absorption sequenced through analogue synths – spacing out on the metallic, neon-lit clouds of tomorrow – and a jarring use of samples that often draws our attention to their sometimes unpleasant, sometimes haunting presence in the present. But what begins as an annoying or near annoying or at least not particularly desirable racket becomes part of a bigger sound world in which it feels like an integral, if whimsically chosen, part. This is true of “Up” and “Nassau,” the latter beginning with small snippets of a voice looped tightly and growing into a semi-tropical, semi-trip, halfway between relaxation and unbearable tenseness.
Such seems to be the place Lopatin is interested in exploring here. Rather than create the vast, strata-free expanses that prevail in his previous work, by rigging samples sourced from TV and the Internet into the shapes of his tracks here he manages to suggest, whether purposefully or not, the states of attention that we live through, many of us, in 2011. The scatterbrained, doing ten things at once on the Internet – downloading while badly reading while badly writing an email while ordering records and looking for a book to check out at the library – meets with an intensified urge to dream, to get lost in things big enough to occlude one from oneself, to wash away the wasted hours in brief moments in the face of stilted, accidental sublimes.
The skeleton in the mirror appropriately enough leads to the record’s title track. The skeleton is in some way or another the replica, a life without flesh that may be lived on the other side of some divide that separates actual life from virtual life, both of them of course in their way real. That is a pretty damn literal reading of it, but it seems right, especially as the music itself seems to diverge in these different directions, toward states of mind appropriate to the contemplation of life or the perpetual state of distraction in which many seem to operate, against which we have to fight to do what needs to be done if we can discover what needs to be done. “Replica” may be the strongest thing here, anchored on repeating piano phrases that put me in mind of a somber Satie, the electronics surrounding the notes in fuzzy jolts of toned-down color. It’s moving without being in the least sentimental.
If a record this year without words (save the occasionally almost intelligible vocal sample) could be said to coil itself around questions that point to the politics of the personal, then this is the record. I cannot, from what I have read, imagine Daniel Lopatin saying that, but I say it nonetheless. It took about one listen to understand what he was getting up to with this new approach, an approach that in some sense brings together his OPN work and the looping of samples that result in his ECCO JAMS. Tracks like “Sleep Dealer,” “Power of Persuasion,” and “Remember” are all musically intriguing and enjoyable, drawing sound and music onto a single fantastical plane, but as the titles themselves suggest there is something at stake in all of this, something not wholly removed from a science fiction world where our actions and thoughts are not completely ours, yet where we do not quite find ourselves oppressed or without hope. This record feels like the edge of hope, with all the anxiety and surplus of memories that engenders.