I was trying to remember the first time I heard Oneohtrix Point Never. You see, that’s what I do in my spare time, people. I sit around and try and remember pointless drivel like “What year did ‘Paris, Texas’ come out?” and “What year did I drive 5 hours to Peoria, Illinois to see Rush and Primus?” and “When was the first time I ever heard Oneohtrix Point Never?” That’s the kind of life I lead here. I’m not out kicking ass and taking names, or expanding my mind with hallucinogenic drugs and writing the great American novel. No, I’m sitting at home complaining about how my leg is sore(sciatica, chaotica) and spinning weird, buzzing records as I get all up in arms over the proper beer glass to drink a hearty bourbon barrel-aged stout out of.
Jesus, I’m pathetic.
Despite all of that, I think the first time I ever heard Oneohtrix Point Never was when R Plus Seven came out in 2013 and I wondered what the big deal was. Drone-y stuff from a weird guy with a beard from Brooklyn. Yeah? So?? “They say it sounds like John Carpenter or something.” Oh really? No, it actually sounds like haunted new age music. It sounds like something you’d hear played in one of those earthy stores where they sell geodes, arrowheads, and seashell necklaces, along with books on how to keep Mother Earth clean and feed your family for a week with what you threw away a month ago. You know, stuff like that. Despite my initial underwhelming reaction I decided to check out the previous album Replica and pretty much had the same reaction. This is weird…where’s the haunting synths?….will someone please answer the goddamned phone???…oops, sorry. That last one was directed at my kids.
So fast forward to the fall of 2014. On a whim I thought I’d give Oneohtrix Point Never another shot. First album I hit up is the 2007 debut Betrayed In The Octagon. Firstly because the black and white album cover looked like a Twilight Zone collage mixed with a 60s magazine fashion ad. It struck something in me. Secondly, that title, Betrayed In The Octagon, reminded me of an old Chuck Norris movie, The Octagon, starring Norris and Lee Van Cleef from 1980. It holds great memories. Betamax dreams, folks. Anyways, I think I just wasn’t ready for Daniel Lopatin’s brand of atmospheric, drone-y music because this album struck something in me and struck hard. Opening track “Woe Is The Transgression I” opens like some strange, impressionistic piece inspired by a firestorm on Mars or something. Big, loping noise envelopes you as the song slowly tracks nearly 9 minutes of your life away. It’s truly heavy and heady stuff. There’s a “Woe Is The Transgression II” later on that sucks nearly 11 minutes of your bandwidth away and it’s even darker and more desolate. But it’s not all space madness on here. “Behind The Bank” feels like that double sunrise on Tatooine, or the moment those purple dust clouds clear and you see the new day’s light. Sounds sculpted from analog noisemakers always make for better sounds, and Lopatin surrounds Oneohtrix Point Never’s world with plenty of analog bliss here. But this isn’t about geeking out over gear, this guy really seems to take a serious mental trip on these songs. “Eyeballs” has the buzzing vibe of androids waking from a 100 year shutdown, while “Betrayed In The Octagon” is all oscillating fervor and wheezing square waves inching their way into the great abyss. “Parallel Minds” feels like a Boards of Canada interlude, while “Laser to Laser” almost sounds and reads like some sort of Philip K. Dick term for Replicant sex.
Betrayed In The Octagon will probably always remain my favorite Oneohtrix Point Never album as a whole. Soon after picking this up, I binged and bought up four or five of Lopatin’s records. All of them hit the spot with me, and they all felt like progressions to some next creative plateau. They all possess that new age-y thing, but a dark version of it. Big ideas sprawled out in electronic code. R Plus Seven has become one of my favorite albums as well, and not because of the John Carpenter talk. It actually sounds nothing like John Carpenter to me. It does, however, feel haunted on some level. Not scary, but alone and mournful. “Boring Angel” and “Chrome Country” are beautiful bookends for that record. Replica is this crazy experience of loops and bits of dreams all sewn together into this amazing album. He becomes the master of his craft on that album. There’s a couple smaller records I bought as well. Russian Mind and Drawn and Quartered feel like these smaller interludes that led up into some of Lopatin’s biggest artistic turns. They’re both quieter, restrained albums that are quite lovely on a rainy day.
Daniel Lopatin may indeed by a weird bearded guy from Brooklyn(listen to Garden Of Delete and you’ll understand why), but he’s also a musical genius in my book. He’s one of those rare artists that has a very distinct vision for what he creates. Maybe not rare, but so many artists today ramble and seem to be floating in space with no real direction. Lopatin and OPN each time out feel as if there’s a direction and story involved. You’re not just meandering around in the dark occasionally connecting to something in the abyss. It took Betrayed In The Octagon to get me to see what he’s trying to do and that he’s got a vision for the music. It’s an album I visit often and will probably continue to until I finally get that kicking ass and taking names thing down.
Editor’s Note: In response to the above questions from earlier: Paris,Texas came out in 1984, I saw Rush and Primus in Peoria, Illinois in 1994, and it was 2013 when I first listened to Oneohtrix Point Never.