To say that the musical career of Daniel Lopatin (aka Chuck Persons aka Kaoss Edge aka Oneohtrix Point Never aka OPN) is complex, well, is a bit of an understatement. Though each moniker comes corresponds to a distinct style, Lopatin’s work is deeply entrenched in mythos — his projects connect in a way that creates a canon. Naturally, some of this lore comes from fan discourse, but a large majority of it feels intentionally crafted by Lopatin himself. Particularly as Oneohtrix Point Never, every project of his provides some new way to view his artistry. He is fixated on how aura and feeling manifest themselves within sounds, a fixation which has led him to craft some of the most experimental and innovative pieces of the last decade.
Because of how truly alien so much of his music sounds, one might think of him as the type of avant-garde that deep-cut historians who spend most of their time in record stores or rateyourmusic forums would brag about “discovering.” However, despite all signs pointing toward maintaining a career outside the establishment, OPN’s trajectory has put him not only at the vanguard of experimental electronic music, but as a frequent mingler with the mainstream. Within the last few years, he has been able to catch the attention of and collaborate with many well-known artists, including FKA Twigs and The Weeknd, as well as soundtrack several movies, including “Good Time” and “Uncut Gems.” Perhaps the greatest testament to the quality of his music is that these artists don’t want to work with him because of his accessibility (OPN is many things, but accessible is not one of them), but because his artistic intention remains clear. They want to collaborate with him despite the challenging nature of his work and the chaos of his vision.
A question that many had was how this explosion of exposure would affect his music. Would he try to incorporate a more accessible structure to his sound, or would he further embrace the unpredictable aesthetic he has built for himself? Magic Oneohtrix Point Never provides the answer: both.
In his last album Age Of, there were slight signs of a change in methodology. Chiefly, it used Lopatin’s voice as a tool. The fact that there was actual singing going on created the perception that the music was taking on a more traditional format, but on closer inspection, the singing was actually used as a way to discover new ways of displaying unconventionality. With Magic, he appears to explore his own voice even further, flirting closer and closer with traditional song structure. This traditionality also shows up in the various collaborations across the album, including features from The Weeknd, Caroline Polachek, Arca and NOLANBEROLLIN. However, this is only one aspect of the album. Almost as if it’s in response, the other half of the album contains some of OPN’s most experimental and aesthetically complex music to date. The way the experimental pieces are arranged in the album can make it seem like they are the “filler” that take up the space between the more songish tracks, and yet they somehow contain a plethora of ideas and feelings. As an artist, Lopatin might be one of the best at unveiling meaning from within that which seems vacant.
If there is one thing that has remained constant throughout OPN’s career, it is Lopatin’s obsession with the potency of memory. Often this sense of memory may seem strange, even alien, but never unfamiliar. Magic presents itself as the summation of the discoveries he’s made through his exploration of the topic. In many ways, it feels like this is the first time Lopatin has looked back. There are so many callbacks to his prior works (the plunderphonics of Replica, the incongruity of R Plus 7, the nostalgic angst of Garden of Delete), and they all function as a self-reflection and also an obituary. The chopped up radio interludes really bring this point home. In them, you hear the voices of announcers speaking in pseudo-Lynchian dialogue, there’ll only be a memory of music and this dream is the sound. And this dream will self-destruct in 3 … 2 … Everything fades and gets replaced eventually, memory, dreams and, as Lopatin is trying to establish, so too will his music.
Daily Arts Writer Drew Gadbois can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.