Going radio ga-ga, don’t touch that dial
It’s strange to think that Daniel Lopatin’s Oneohtrix Point Never alias is over a decade old, principally because he continues to make future-facing music. From kicking off the vapourwave movement of the early 2010s, to scoring the soundtracks to major films such as the Safdie Brothers’ 2019 feature film ‘Uncut Gems’, Lopatin’s music always moves with the times, paradoxically while sampling found sounds from halcyon days.
Case in point is ‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’, his fourth record for Warp. The title references Lopatin’s original Magic Oneohtrix Point Never alias, which is Massachusetts-born and raised Lopatin’s play on the name of the Boston radio station Magic 106.7, and this latest outing is inspired by classic American radio, and reflects on the country’s music culture.
Opener ‘Cross Talk I’ is a brief collage of scrambled radio broadcasts, as though an unseen hand is fiddling with dial. On ‘Cross Talk II’, a voice says, “The music we grew up with doesn’t speak for us”. Alongside these nostalgia-provoking snippets, there’s the glitchy nu-rave of ‘The Whether Channel’ and the kosmische synths of ‘Bow Ecco’.
The last Oneohtrix album, 2018’s ‘Age Of’, was the first to prominently feature his own vocals. The pop forays from that record flourish here. ‘No Nightmares’ ripples with autotuned melodrama. ‘Long Road Home’ is dramatic synthesised strings and chintzy R&B, with vocals from American pop vanguard Caroline Polachek. ‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’ squeezes 17 tracks into 47 minutes, so there’s a lot going on here. His trademark is unorthodox assemblages of sound. When there’s so much sonic material to sift through, it’s difficult not to start picking apart and projecting onto his compositions.
The scope of the work seems to demand a substantial critical context. But then there are parts of ‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’, like the woozy, unabashed electropop of ‘Lost But Never Alone’, that tap away at your sentimental side. It feels especially pertinent for the times we’re currently in, faced with an uncertain future, longing for the warm embrace of the familiar past.