Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica


What is it with producer Daniel Lopatin and the letter 'R'? Whether it's the vast brainstorm of droning landscapes that is Rifts, or the analogue-tuned alarm of Returnal, Lopatin certainly can't get away from a branding beginning with that solitary consonant. Such is the case - one year later from his previous release as OPN, and less than half a year from 'Channel Pressure' (the 80s dream-pop revival in collaboration with fellow producer Joel Ford) - with his newest incarnation 'Replica', an album that, much UNlike his previous work, is almost devoid of any reverbed synths and crunchy textures that made Returnal one of the highlights of 2010.

To say that Replica focuses, instead, on the application of samples would most definitely be an understatement. Indeed, Lopatin himself has confessed to buying video compilations of old TV advertisements as source material - some sources taken even from Youtube, of all places. But don't let the early background put you off. This is an OPN record, and with it comes an uncanny usage of conscious sound on subconscious visions.

Replica's opener 'Andro' is pure OPN in formulae; fuzzy synths leading an overlaying of non-lyrical vocals. The track, much like the nine others on this record, may be shorter in duration than that of previous compilations, but don't let the length put you off. If anything, Lopatin retains his ability to waver his sound between a broken reality and collaged surreality.

It's this surreal nature that leads us to Sleep Dealer, which demonstrates Lopatin's change in direction here. Bubbling, clinking electronics find themselves at a tug-o-war with quick snaps of voices, a low-humming bass and twiddling of strings progressing as the battle between vocal and instrument ensues. 'Power of Persuasion', though not as violently clashing between itself, still brings about a duality between opposing forces. This time though it's the striking of piano chords against this humming of electronics that leaves us at a somewhat cross-road as to where this sound will go.


If the early movements of this album are of war and contrast, than 'Remember' & 'Replica' are without a doubt the embodiments of a cease-fire and unity. The former, wailing monk-like choirs leading a warm line of synth patterns; the latter, a piano march with mumbles of horns and fellow brass samples.

As the album continues this line of contrast and unity -- patterns of drones locking horns with a tangeable striking of sampled voices and out-of-key background noises -- looking back, it's clear that Lopatin has rejected the idea of a Returnal v2.0 and instead decided on something a lot more conceptual and common, not just in its content, but in its context too. True, this is an album to be taken with a pinch of salt (maybe even more than that) on initial listening, but the fact that this is an OPN release clearly shows that this is an album built in layers.

And where 'Submersible' leans more to a dreamy ambient soundscaping; the listener being the architect here, later track 'Up' is a sudden abrupt awakening, an energetic beat of voices progressing to a smoothening of synthesizers by the end. Either side of the track though demonstrates Lopatin's perception on layering, be it a clash fighting for dominance, or a blending of multiple sources culminating in something almost subconscious in origin.

This album, is not without its flaws though. 'Up' though clearly focusing on layering does not give as much attention to the progression of its sound as it does its volume - both ends of the spectrum a victim of their own power when the two finally converge on each other. In the end, though the progression is finally made, the result is somewhat mumbled, lost in the noise of vocal cries and held-on notes. Closer 'Explain' is much like the opener in that it returns to Lopatin's experience with synthesizers. However - its previous counterpart falling to the same flaws unfortunately - the track falls victim to the album's theme or a lack thereof, the 'scape this time little more than what feels like an artist's frustration on how to close an album - an album built on material originally intended for the "middle part".

In some respect, Replica is probably one of the first records to have a discussion on whether it is its "middle" that is the strongest, rather than debating between the front side and the back. The experiments of source material on original material is intriguing; an album heavily built on samples and fragmented vocals and being more than able to pull it off without becoming a bore is always deserved of its credit. Sure, this is no 'Endtroducing' nor will it be challenging 'Since I Left You' any time soon. What it is though is emotively liberating, reeling the listener in, inviting them to personalize these sounds to their own desire...sounds totally stripped in origin and nature, riddled with ambiguity and naivety.

The first listen is always the toughest. The second, third, maybe forth run-through is the one that for the majority reeps all the benefit. And the benefit here...is understanding this: what starts as an obscure mystery, 'Replica' eventually unravels and humanises into something direct, something personal. Something, in result, quite beautiful.
~Jordan


8.9

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