by Evan Miller
Today’s internet music culture is one often of borrowed nostalgia and constant reference. Old sounds are now made new again. In our post-internet culture, music discovery can become a flood of information and influence without the context of its time period, with just a few clicks.
Thus we had the underground movement in electronic music of a few years ago called vaporwave, which can be simply/cynically described as chopped and screwed 80s pop—it reconstituted corporate muzak/cheap synth patches from the internet age boom. This music, stripped of its prior context and hit-or-miss across the board, was and is still very polarizing.
At the genesis of this movement, we had a release from Chuck Person, one of the many aliases of experimental electronic musician Daniel Lopatin, also known as Oneohtrix Point Never (OPN).
The tape’s woozy, psychedelic sampling of 80s pop hits bled into his other works, such as the excellent 2011 release Replica under his OPN moniker, as well as this new release. However, when samples are used in this project, they are either so obscure or so far removed from context that they may as well be original sounds. But the practice of using old, retro-futuristic or chintzy sounds still remains. His move to being more sample-based on Replica has kept up with R Plus Seven, but this time around it is more a mixture between his sample and normal analog synth-based works. If you consider yourself a fan of electronic music, be forewarned: this album is not for everyone.
This is not the growling, sputtering bass of dubstep or the hard-hitting momentum of trap music. This is abstract music far removed from these modern genres. Not to say that he does not embrace modern sounds; many of the analog synth sounds are ones still used today by other electronic pioneers like Boards of Canada or Aphex Twin.
However, it’s the inclusion of cheap, basic-level synth noises alongside these newer textures that makes his sound unique, (and how the vaporwave aesthetic has crept into his other work). The songs on this record are generally formless in terms of typical song structure, and could easily be described as modern minimalism. Songs such as “Americans” or “Inside World” start and stop with many different sections, like vignette fragments stitched into a single piece.
This album is both beautiful and quite disconcerting at times, with warm ambient drones being upended by sputters of vocal samples, winding percussive arpeggios or cheesy commercial synth sounds flying in like a strange 80s acid flashback, like in tracks such as “Boring Angel” or “Still Life”. If anything, Lopatin is very successful at weaving many different and contrasting textures into one coherent product. I suggest listening to this album loud, so you can fully take in every little idiosyncrasy of the analog sounds used, and how they vary from phrase to phrase.
This has been one of my favorite albums so far this year, and I highly recommend it.