The Art of Petting Crocodiles
The world of electronic music has produced a handful of monumentally significant artists over the decades. I don’t mean fantastic musicians or brilliant bands. There are more than a handful of those. I’m talking about “artists” in the broadest sense of the word, people who have pushed beyond music and channelled their creative energies into other disciplines. I’m talking about Eno and Hütter, Aphex and Scanner, Herbert and Tobin. And if I was to write this again in a few years time, I suspect I might be adding the name Daniel Lopatin, aka Oneohtrix Point Never, to that list.
Daniel Lopatin has been releasing material as Oneohtrix Point Never since 2007. I first came across the Brooklyn-based synths and samples obsessive via ‘Rifts’, a compilation of his early recordings which was recommended to me by Aphex Twin’s sound engineer, a man with two of the best ears in the business, and I wasn’t surprised when Warp Records signed him up in 2013. But as well as his recorded output, Lopatin has worked on some fascinating audio-visual event projects, including a number of collaborations with San Francisco sculptor and videographer Nate Boyce. His pieces have been hosted by the likes of the Barbican in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and there’s every reason to think he’ll be engaging in more of these sorts of endeavours in the future.
But to the matter in hand. ‘Good Time’ is Oneohtrix Point Never’s third album for Warp and is the soundtrack to a new crime movie directed by Josh and Ben Safdie. The cast is headed up by Robert Pattinson of ‘Twilight’ fame. The album has had a lot of people rubbernecking ahead of its release, not least because it won the Soundtrack Award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival back in May, and it’s easy to understand why. From the deep bass drone that begins the opening title track – bone shaking, soul quaking – to the final synth swell of the closing ‘The Pure And The Damned’, a track underpinned throughout by a similarly deep bass drone, ‘Good Time’ is an exciting listen, packed with high drama. Get yourself a seat with strong arms. You’re going to be doing some clutching.
GAAAAAHHH! Hey, I did warn you.
What makes ’Good Time’ so exciting is Lopatin’s determination to push at the extremes. The darkness (and there’s a lot of darkness) is pitch black. The brightness (there’s a lot of that too) is incandescent, pretty much blindingly so. It’s all big, heavy, muscular, in your face, to the hilt, to the max. The chords surge relentlessly, the melodies hang in the air for two eternities, the arpeggios run thick and fast and long.
‘Entry To White Castle’ and ‘Romance Apocalypse’ are Tangerine Dreamy, but with steel toecaps. ‘The Acid Hits’ is simultaneously abrasive and wobbly and squelchy. ‘Bail Bonds’ incorporates frantic live drums and screeching guitar-like sounds, traces of Lopatin’s formative years on the New York noise scene perhaps.
There are snatches of dialogue scattered here and there, presumably taken from the film (no, I haven’t seen it), often treated in some way, bashed up, broken up, twisted into the mix rather than given prominence. They work well, adding other dimensions to the album, but the whole thing gets flipped on its head by ‘The Pure And The Damned’. In contrast to the rest of ‘Good Time’, it’s very minimal – a bit of piano, a bit of synth, that bass drone – but the real talking point is the vocals, courtesy of Iggy Pop no less. What’s more, this is Iggy in old-man-singing-after-too-much-whisky mode, with some spoken words thrown in for extra emphasis. He’s relating important stuff too – from love to life to death to petting crocodiles. Yes indeed.
If you’re not hugely familiar with Oneohtrix Point Never, this is an excellent opportunity to change that. ‘Good Time’ is much less fractured than a lot of Daniel Lopatin’s previous work, although that’s probably to be expected from a single artist soundtrack album, and is sure to nudge him further into the mainstream. In fact, the Cannes award started that process a few months back. This is a man with the balls to match his artistic bent, as he proved last year when he undertook a tour supporting Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden, and it will be great to see his appeal stretching beyond the hipster critics at hipster websites.
Pure and damned with pointy teeth and strong jaws. Get set for some more clutching. GAAAAAHHH!