It’s weird to think that Daniel Lopatin, the composer behind the enigmatic electronic projec,t Oneohtrix Point Never, could ever have a mainstream moment. But that’s exactly what happened last year when his score for the Safdie Brothers film, Good Time, was met with critical praise and even a best film score award from Cannes.
Lopatin, who has been making music for the better part of the decade now, has always seemed the type to thrive in the darkness of obscurity. His music takes on many forms, with elements of trance, vaporwave and experimental electronics used to create soundscapes that blend the beautiful with the grotesque.
On his 2015 release, Garden of Delete, Lopatin was at his most extreme, coming off a tour where he headlined for Nine Inch Nails the influence of that band could be felt in the more industrial compositions. It was a harsh record that once again found Lopatin keeping his audience at arm’s length, but that all changed in 2017 with his Good Time soundtrack.
For the first time, it felt like Lopatin was letting us into his world with that films pulsing and linear soundscape. With his newest record, Age Of, Lopatin continues this trend towards openness with the addition of new collaborators and a greater focus on capturing his own voice.
Of course, Lopatin doesn’t let everything go so easily though, the core concept of Age Of involves advanced A.I’s picking through the remains of our fractured society to find the different aspects of our culture we hold dear. For much of the album, a harpsichord can be heard which feels like a connection to the past while also strangely sounding like something from the future.
That balance is key to the feelings captured in Age Of, the past being the conduit for an unforeseen and strange future. The opening title track shows this by first luring in listeners with an intriguing harpsichord melody before breaking away into a more digital tone with screams closing out the chaos. For a moment it seems like Lopatin might be returning to the darkness of his previous work but then on the next track ‘Babylon’ his voice glides in to bring some warmth.
Lopatin and noise artist Prurient lyrics are harsh, painting a burned utopia, but the track is structured almost like a Bon Iver song in its sparseness and is just as sweet as any Justin Vernon track. If Garden of Delete was defined by its excess Age Of does more with less. There are still elements of chaos in every track here, but Lopatin’s control over it has greatly improved.
Take ‘Manifold’, for example, with it’s pitched shifted samples and simple piano lead the track manages to be strangely affecting even after it adds a Good Time synths to the mix. Or the track ‘We’ll Take It’ which has James Blake (a co-producer on Age Of) on the keyboard, OPN collaborator Anohi on vocals along with Lopatin who mixes it all with an ominous synth and bass beat. On paper that might seem like overkill, and in the wrong hands it absolutely would be, but it just works so well.
Lead single ‘Black Snow’ has slowly become my favourite track from the album for how simple it seems from the outside, but upon repeat listens the track reveals so many more intricacies. The finger snaps, Lopatin’s lyrics, the breakdown at the end it’s all so weird and yet together they work in a way only he could perceive.
And that’s Lopatin’s greatest strength as a composer, taking what could be good singular elements and finding just the right angles to put them together. With Age Of though Lopatin seems to have pulled his greatest trick yet, finding a place for himself within the madness and thriving within it.
Age Of is out now via Warp.