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Arts & Culture, Reviews

Oneohtrix Point Never muses in “Magic OPN”

The electronic artist’s ninth LP uses Baroque electronica, distortion to recall past, point to future

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, November 9, 2020

Oneohtrix Point Never released his ninth LP, “Magic OPN,” a sonic self-portrait in a series of 17 tracks.

A shattered mirror of sounds materializes in experimental composer and musician Oneohtrix Point Never’s ninth studio-length album, “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never.” The sonic self-portrait coalesces in a series of 17 tracks — vignettes that are collaged into a pillowy collection that oscillates between Baroque electronic strums, plunderphonics and almost-pop.

The album’s title is eponymous: before the prodigious Daniel Lopatin was Oneohtrix Point Never, he was Magic Oneohtrix Point Never. But, “Magic OPN” is also an homage to the soft-rock radio station, Magic 106.7, which inspired his first-ever alias.

Lopatin’s synth-laden productions, which first hit the internet in the early aughts, have found their way into the larger media landscape — his most recent project prior to “Magic OPN” being the original score to the Safdie Brothers’ 2019 “Uncut Gems.” 

Last week, Lopatin, presented a single from “Magic OPN” on syndicated late night television, too. This was not his first foray into the mainstream, though, as Lopatin has perused and revamped electronica through producing tracks for sundry names like The Weeknd, FKA Twigs, (Sandy) Alex G and Iggy Pop. “Magic OPN” operates as a musing on twenty plus years of auteurism. 

In its radioed spirit, the album progresses in a way that is predictably unpredictable. Lopatin evokes the now-nostalgic sensation of flipping through the FM radio stations, pushing the gambit of sound more than ever. “Magic OPN” bounces between symphonic flourish to unparseable, electronically-mutilated voice recordings to pop-ish chimeric tunes.

In an interview with Apple Music, Lopatin described the album as a mixtape that expressly presents dissonance. “Unlike a mixtape that you make for somebody else, (the tracks are) non-sequential,” he said. “You’re reacting to something that you may have not even heard before, that you’re just titillated by for the first few seconds. It’s like a map of your unconscious in a way.”

And that map of the unconscious is exactly what Lopatin provides. Because of its very sonic incongruity and genreless transgressions, “Magic OPN” communicates a nostalgic vision of self that feels self-reflexive and blissfully intentional.

The 17 track album feels more like a conceptual project than a grasp at commerciality, but that type of expression is nothing novel for the 38-year-old musician. It is through this explicitly unabiding approach to the music landscape that Lopatin has established himself as a prolific and unwavering auteur. 

The homemade, computerized Lopatin that is widely coveted rises again, perhaps more authentically than ever before in “Magic OPN.” The project is a melodious scrapbook of Lopatin’s career. 

In the balladic “Long Road Home,” Lopatin refers back to the familiar sounds of an electric harpsichordian strum. Pop singer Caroline Polachek’s distorted, bird-like vocals float over instrumental flourishes that feel at once spirited and melancholic. It cultivates a sort of alien-ish ambience — muddied and dissonant yet somehow smooth to the ear.

The autotuned track melts into a postmodern interlude in “Cross Talk II,” which has a title referential to the Christian weekday radio talk show “Crosstalk.” The 50-second plunderphonic track stretches and squashes the radio-voices that echo: “The music we grew up with does not represent us.” The staticky, autotuned words feel like talking head truisms that are at once critical and parodied.

Polachek returns for a second feature in “No Nightmares,” a far more poppish blip amidst the sea of abstraction. This blip, as euphonious as it is, feels nearly too pristine. The project begs for more distortion, more cacophony, because those are the moments that feel truly Lopatin. 

“Magic OPN” feels most authentic and prescient when poptimism is dirtied by Lopatin’s characteristic computer manipulation. The project is best when it is impressionistic and warped, because therein it feels both apparitional of Lopatin’s ineffable past and prophetic of his future.

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