Daniel Lopatin has been world building as Oneohtrix Point Never for over a decade now. His albums started as drone and ambient vibe fests that brought to mind bleak science fiction and dystopian landscapes. Druggy, psychedelic musical experiments with old, battered synths, samplers, looping stations, and guitar pedals.
As ramshackle as that sounds, those early OPN albums like Betrayed In The Octagon, Russian Mind, Drawn and Quartered, and The Fall Of Time were revelatory records in the world of electronic music. Lopatin made electronic music for the dance floor and club-averse. It was deeper and denser, with a healthy amount of stoned indifference dolloped on top.
From Returnal on, Daniel Lopatin seems to have been on a mission to keep transforming and evolving as a musician, engineer, and producer, taking Oneohtrix Point Never to new sonic heights each time out. With albums as diverse as Garden of Delete and Age Of, as well as his score work on Good Time and Uncut Gems, Lopatin has surpassed expectations at nearly every turn.
On Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, Daniel Lopatin doesn’t necessarily go back to the drawing board for another rewrite, but what he has done is bask in everything that came before in a very personal and engaging way. It’s a record that feels as if you’re turning the radio dial between stations on some psychic receiver. A sort of mixtape to the past where Daniel Lopatin gives us hazy ambient, pristine pop, and noisy moments of obscure sound. At first listen it seems a bit scattershot and random, but after awhile the world of Magic Oneohtrix Point Never engages you and pulls you in for its 45-minute psychedelic drive time.
This record is a throwback to the days when radio DJs were the friendly voice coming from the speakers, talking directly to you. They kept you company on long drives in big cities, or at home on lonely evenings when your song requests were their pleasure. For Daniel Lopatin that station was Boston’s Magic 106.7, which is the inspiration for his music project’s namesake. This record acts as sort of a 45-minute swath of hazy interludes interspersed between Lopatin’s pop songs from another dimension.
There are some great OPN songs on here. “Auto & Allo” locks into the sonic grandeur that has made up the OPN framework for ten years. Experimental, grand, chromed-out pop elegance with just the right amount of robotic heart. “Long Road Home” shows just how embedded Lopatin is in pop music. Vocoder’d vocals(courtesy of Caroline Polachek), engineered majestically, and ripe for the masses. It’s an elegant musical construct. “I Don’t Love Me Anymore” sounds like a tinkered with Neon Indian track, ghostly vocals and distant synth melodies echo in the track. “No Nightmares” has The Weeknd singing heavily effected vocals over a melancholy musical landscape. “Lost But Never Alone” is another pop ballad, all wobbly and fragile with dissonant sounds peppered throughout. There’s also a great guitar solo from Nate Boyce.
There’s plenty of classic OPN instrumental moments, including “Bow Ecco”, “Imago”, and the largely instrumental “The Whether Channel” with Nolanberollin on vocals. “Tales From The Trash Stratum” sounds like alien frequencies locking into the FM dial.
While Magic Oneohtrix Point Never isn’t pushing the boundaries of OPN’s sonic art, it’s an interesting rest stop to fall into and get lost in for a bit. Someone as prolific as Daniel Lopatin should be able to stop, take stock, and make something personal and meaningful to him without worrying about what anyone will think. At least once in a while.
7.8 out of 10