Oneohtrix Point Never
Brooklyn producer Daniel Lopatin’s recent work has held harbingers for a wider crossover. 2010’s Returnal hid slyly approachable moments amid its brisk drones (and an Antony Hegarty-assisted rework of its title track as a sedate piano ballad didn’t hurt). Channel Pressure, a bonkers synth-pop collaboration with Tigercity’s Joel Ford, revealed interest in working the margins of mainstream pop. Yeah, but no. Few fans will be shocked to hear that Replica, the newest and most-anticipated record of his career, is a yet another mercurial left turn.
Built on samples of 80s and 90s advertising, Replica augments OPN’s deep-space ambient chill with cut-up voices and non-verbal tics. Recent avant-gardists have used sampled vocals in a way that’s sort of emptily aching, holding a melody’s shape but denying context and intent. Lopatin sidesteps his commercials' messages as well, shunning slogans for satisfied post-coffee-sip sighs, but builds to rhythmic repetition instead of ghost melody. The album’s flow often resets to somber jazz piano loops, using loose key strikes as foundation to disrupt. Meanwhile, fuzzy room tones permeate everything providing welcome warmth. Nothing’s as aggressive as the industrial clang that began Returnal, but it can be jarring. The laser blurts of “Child Soldier” almost read as M.I.A. parody before gentle synths balance its bluntness. Replica is no tidy pop record, but its preoccupation with interrupted and unintended communication is never too far from a still, pervasive beauty. It’s thoughtful in both senses of the word--asking you to make sense of abstractions, then providing a fluffy couch for which to plop down and suss things out.