Oneohtrix Point Never’s previous album, 2011’s Replica, was received with much critical acclaim, and this is the first from OPN (real name Daniel Lopatin) to be released on the almighty Warp Records. The result could easily bear the mark of that slightly added pressure but Lopatin is not the kind to crumble in the face of such challenges. He is by no means a rookie, having self-produced a number of releases since 2009, as well as running his own label Software Recording Co.
Sample-heavy, using only snippets from old TV adverts, Replica was a dreamscape synth utopia, a storybook in the realms of a Mort Garson opus. I wondered what dreams would be sown on the follow-up. Lopatin is an intriguing character. He seems quite mysterious and could easily be imagined as a wizard, stroking his long grey beard, stooped behind a hexed Juno-60. Possibly in the ghost of dreamland tower, hidden amidst the rides on Coney Island, stepping out momentarily to take a once-round on the Wonder Wheel.
R Plus Seven is a rather cryptic album title. Considering Lopatin’s tendency to choose intelligent, subtle and, more often than not, ironic references for his offerings, I doubt this is a lazy title. It is probably packed with double or quadruple insider-meanings and in-jokes. I will scratch my head over this one and perhaps come back to it later.
On the other hand, the song titles are quite punchy and satirical, like “Boring Angels.” That is always a good sign — a dreamscape carver with a sense of humour is the best kind. (And here I must cite one of my favourite dreamscapers, Mort Garson, again — I highly recommend this documentary about him.) Otherwise it gets too serious and festers in its own juices.
I sense the cover has religious connotations: in a grey room stands a small, faceless monolith — the religious idol — showered in sunlight/heaven’s warming rays. Beside it, there is a door that leads nowhere — the real open gap stands in the shadow of the monolith, hidden, ignored. And yes, suspicion confirmed, the religious veins are clear from the start. Church organs chime and the wedding begins, yet no couple arrives. The chapel remains empty, just the two of you — you and the cowering rodent sat gnawing upon the dust-ridden pews. A concerto, only for you, take a bow, take control, no almighty hand to set the rules — use the tools as you wish.
Grounded for a minute — the rain continues to trickle and tap upon the web of slate grey slabs — are they still mending the church roof? But no one will bother — long unused and free to be abused — re-appropriated. Time for the boring angels to be enticed into rebellion. You set about the task, brush off your tails and, enlightened, remove the goldfish from the bowl and unleash the lions. The organ turns round and around, a waltzer, a clown in dress, yellow and red on either side, the lights flash and the walls fall flat. You have been released — no longer in the clutches of sobriety.
Spring arrives with the cackle of infants (track 2: “Americans”), looped — not real. You have been duped, like the children of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but this is no child-catcher, the goal is liberation. Cutting and chopping all that had been uniform for centuries, the last bread crust broken, exposed, collecting mould, trapped in the crevices of the polythene bag. Let the water flow, unbuckle the leather braces, long mutated and welded with the blood and sodden spit of humanity. Halfway into the track, you’re in the dentist’s waiting room; the candy-coloured glass waterfall lures you in but your forehead collides — you are rebounded. It was never real, silly. Just a mirage. Choke on a word, let it go.
As the May fair begins once again, the echo of the willow’s songs haunts — saved by the elements, the rain, heavy as fried food, all air is compressed and the imps are disarmed through the cloak of darkness – the switch is flicked in a megabyte glimpse.
Return to the doctor’s couch, anti-smoking infiltration — but no messenger appears to lead you down the enlightened path. Instead you are left alone, to find it within yourself that which you seek, for all it’s worth. A false lullaby.
Cue the abrupt start of the third track, “He She.” Lopatin, the puppetmaster — he knows where you’re going, but you, you remain a mere lamb, led for a dance around the butcher’s blade. But fun is allowed, this needn’t be a nightmare, more an enlightenment.
The sensual strut begins through the sleeping verses. Let the humourous play continue with “Inside World.” The samples lend themselves wonderfully, chopped and bound, at complete mercy of the master.
Then comes “Zebra,” stripes of sound carve through your ear drums, no relief but eased by soothing butter harmonies. A breath, a shadow of a sound and at once full-on confrontation: the almighty peak! This was the honey nectar that was promised!
But he’s not quite done with you yet. We’re only midway in. This isn’t a hedonist’s trip. That would be too easy for Lopatin — he likes to play with his prey. Here comes momentary composure, left to reflect and simmer in your juices — perhaps a little too long? Have I lost interest? Did I take the let-go as an opportunity for a toilet break? But no, here he shows he hasn’t quite played all his cards yet, with a smooth wind lullaby in “Along.” But then it prematurely ends. This album certainly has funny endings. The transition between songs is rougher than a channel crossing. Perhaps this is a nightmare? You feel sick to the pit of your stomach. Let me go?!
It gets lost in the middle somewhere, but ends on some seriously epic synths in “Chrome Country,” with never-ending build-ups and falls that demand your full attention but then it does suddenly come to a close on some whispy fade out; his teasing never ceases.
Maybe the title R Plus Seven is a reference to the famous Miller’s Law, which holds that the number of objects the human mind can hold simultaneously is 7±2. I must admit that I’d retain only five tracks from this album, but it’s a wondrous record all the same. I still love this guy and see R Plus Seven as another thrilling chapter in a very gripping novel. This is an artist with longevity and one who believes in taking his time when painting pictures. No need to join all the dots right away, you’d be selling yourself cheap. Now is time to sleep and dream some more dreams. Thank you for this one, Daniel.