The early work of Oneohtrix Point Never just connects to me, man. His stoner, psychedelic ambient drones and wonky electronica from the early 2000’s to 2009 were assembled as a compilation called Rifts, which took albums Betrayed In The Octagon, Zones Without People, Drawn and Quartered, The Fall Into Time, and Russian Mind into one mind-expanding set. When I first got into Daniel Lopatin’s musical world it was 2013 and his album R Plus Seven. He’d already been established as an electronic music artist that was doing new things. He worked outside of the box; his music was wobbly, experimental, and not confined to techno rhythms and dance beats. He made music to float away to, at least up to R Plus Seven. That album hinted at a guy that wanted to expand his music palate. It hinted at the guy that would eventually start to score films, create art installations, and produce other artists.
But before all that, he was just a stoner from Brooklyn who inherited his dad’s Roland Juno-60.
Those albums that made up the Rifts compilation are ones I obsessively listened to and purchased over the course of 2014. Well, at least Betrayed In The Octagon, Drawn and Quartered, and Russian Mind. Those records were ones I easily fell into that year. Their dark, mellow, and heady sound worlds were ones I connected to in a gut-level way. The sort of retro synth sounds, arpeggiated riffs, and improvised ponderings were musical worlds I found great comfort in.
I discovered anxiety that year.
Maybe it was my wife getting a new job that required her to be gone a week at a time occasionally and me taking care of the kids solo(jobs, band practice, school clothes shopping), or maybe the past finally catching up to me, but that summer anxiety attacks reared their heads. Those albums were places I found great comfort in. They brought me down from a cloud of worry and allowed me to sort of center myself.
So even though I’m a huge fan of Daniel Lopatin and everything he’s done since R Plus Seven(Garden of Delete, Age Of, Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, and his scores for Good Time and Uncut Gems), his early OPN albums are pretty damn special to me.
When I read that Software and Mexican Summer were reissuing those first five albums that were included in Rifts for Record Store Day this year I knew I had to get them. At least Zones Without People and The Fall Into Time, since I had the others. Like the good fan I am, I was able to snag both of them on RSD 2021, with the others now waiting for me to pick them up.
I’ve been obsessively listening to The Fall Into Time and Zones Without People since I picked them up Saturday. Their druggy, dreamy vibes and old school electronic sensibilities are the sonic elixir I’ve needed. Between graduations, multiple school functions(summer school, drivers ed, summer band) as well as cavities getting filled and wisdom teeth getting cut out, the last couple weeks have been about a hair shy of nervous breakdown. Fortunately the wife and I work pretty well together(celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on 6/15), so we’ve been sharing the heavy schedule and making sure neither one of us go postal. For me, these OPN albums bring me back down from the brink every time.
I feel like all of these records are cut from the same cloth. Listening to all of them you sort of get lost in a world of like-minded vibes. There is a sort of sci-fi, dystopian element to these albums which I love. But it’s not overbearing. You could just as easily smoke a bowl and float away as you could meditate or do yoga to something like “Computer Vision” or “Hyperdawn”. There’s a very 80s, Betamax feel to these songs, which is probably why it hits so hard with me.
I didn’t have cable growing up. It was like 7 or 8 channels we could snag on the 40 ft antenna tower till we got a Toshiba Betamax player in 1984. Once we had a VCR a whole new world opened up for me. So much of Lopatin’s early stuff felt like 80s videotape opening music; Vestron, Thorn-EMI, Gorgon, Cannon Films, they all had that weird, synth-y music that played over the opening credits on their home videos. Daniel Lopatin locked into that sound, and expanded it into these retro worlds that I found great comfort in.
Hazy, burning summer days were spent inside watching forbidden horror movies with a Jeno’s frozen pizza and a large glass of Pepsi or Mountain Dew. The video store provided the mental comfort from what would have been an otherwise bummer day. Songs like “Melancholy Descriptions Of 3D Environments”, “Blue Drive”, and “KGB Nights” lock into analog worlds where the warmth of art and music is felt. Analog warmth, much like touching the top of a tube TV or a Toshiba Betamax player after a 90-minute excursion into a questionable sci-fi or video nasty tape.
The early work of Oneohtrix Point Never just connects on a visceral level with me. It’s like locking into the mainframe, or building up antibodies, or rejuvenating after an afternoon nap; albums like Zones Without People and The Fall Into Time are mental protein. They help me rebuild my brain capacity and let me break down the negativity I encounter in my life. And when my wife says “I like this John Henry” as she works on a particularly stressful work project while we listen to “Sand Partina” off of The Fall Into Time, I know I’ve walked into something good.