28.06.13

Digging deep: Daniel Lopatin’s many faces

On September 30th, Daniel Lopatin will release a new Oneohtrix Point Never album, ‘R Plus Seven’, through Warp. It’s interesting to see him on that label – it makes ‘R Plus Seven’ his highest profile release so far, but it also welcomes him into the Warp fold, as if acknowledging his importance and influence on modern experimental electronic music. The press release promises that the album is both full of “familiar sonic touchstones for listeners who have followed the acclaimed electronic music composer’s development over the last half-decade” whilst also being “a major departure from his previous work”.

It should be interesting to hear where he goes, because Lopatin has had a very, very varied career. Over the years, he has flitted between so many aliases and styles – solo work, bands, drone, new age, sound collage, scores, out-and-out pop, and his eccojams which have become a subgenre in themselves – that it’s testament to the sheer quality of his work that listeners are willing to put so much faith in each of his pursuits.

Using the power of the internet, we decided to dig into the deepest recesses of Youtube to collect some of those different names and different styles that the electronic composer has operated under over the past seven years in one place. As ever, we’ve documented them in a (loosely) chronological order – enjoy.

  1. Dania Shapes – Sunset Corp (2006)
    Recorded in 2004 but remixed and re-released in 2006, Dania Shapes’ ‘Soundsystem Pastoral’ was one of Lopatin’s earliest releases. The CD-R’s opening track is Sunset Corp, the name given to the YouTube account that hosted his renowned eccojam series. Sunset Corp is traditionally beautiful music overlaid with noise and glitch, and it doesn’t sound a million miles away from the IDM of the time.
  2. Astronaut – Live At Nom d’Artiste (2007)
    Pre-Oneohtrix Point Never (and with a little overlap between the two), Lopatin played polyphonic synthesizers – the trusted Juno-60, a Prophet 600 – in kosmische three-piece Astronaut. The group released a handful of CD-Rs and cassettes but one of the only documents of the band left on the internet is this one minute live video on the sunsetcorp Youtube account and a very old interview with the group on Rare Frequency, both from 2007.
  3. Chuck Person – Nobody Here (2009)
    As is probably the case for a lot of people, hearing Nobody Here was the point that I gave Daniel Lopatin the time he deserved, placing an instinctual trust that what he was doing was “right”. Taking two seconds of Chris de Burgh’s Lady In Red and proving that nothing is off-limits for salvaging and redeeming, Lopatin wrings an intense emotion out of the short, hypnotising loop.
  4. Oneohtrix Point Never – Grief & Repetition (2009)
    Taken from No Fun’s 2009 pressing of ‘Russian Mind’ but recorded in 2004, Daniel Lopatin once described Grief & Repetition as “my favourite OPN track ever, and was maybe the second thing I ever recorded. It’s just cut-up piano.” It’s a good, concise explanation of what you’ll hear, but not so much what for you’ll feel.
  5. Infinity Window – Skull Theft (2009)
    Lopatin teamed up with Taylor Richardson for a couple of releases as Infinity Window, making dark, drained drone music. Skull Theft is the 11-minute closing track on their 2009 album Artificial Midnight, but Richardson claimed to Altered Zones that Field Of Vision, taken from an older split tape release, was the best track the two did together.
  6. KGB Man – Demerol (2009)
    Lopatin’s numerous aliases are often adopted simply as an excuse to make music that exists outside of the Oneohtrix Point Never canon, something that’s clearly the case on Demerol. An ode to Michael Jackson and the drug that killed him, Demerol mimics the effects of the prescription medicine by distorting an MJ sample. It manages to be both very sad and darkly hilarious, and for the full effect, you should listen to Demerol whilst watching the video – it’s one of his best.
  7. Skyramps – Flight Simulator (2009)
    Skyramps was a low-run collaborative effort between Lopatin and Emeralds guitarist Mark McGuire that captures the two at their best – rhythmic guitar from McGuire anchored by Lopatins’s synth arpeggiations and melodies. The release was named ‘Days Of Thunder’ after the Tom Cruise vehicle, and has its nods to that era in its size and its sound palette, but these are mere nods rather than full-on pastiches. As its name suggests, Flight Simulator takes you sky high.
  8. Chateau Marmont – One Hundred Realities (Oneohtrix Point Never Cybersex Remix) (2010)
    Whilst Lopatin has been behind a handful of remixes over the years, they make up only a fraction of his extensive back catalogue. It could be down to his work process: most remixers will take the stems of a track apart via timeline-based DAWs and operate according to the software’s workflow, unlike Lopatin’s hardware-centric methods. Taking on French synth band Chateau Marmont seems a sensible match.
  9. Katy Gray – Hold Me Tight (Games Wayslower Edit) (2010)
    Games was the name that Lopatin and Tigercity’s Joel Ford chose for their collaborative project before having to change it, due to legal reasons (blame rapper The Game, apparently), to the more literal Ford & Lopatin. Before the release of the debut Games EP, Ford and Lopatin released a handful of mixtapes under the title ‘Heaven Can Wait’ which saw various digital pop songs from the mid-1980s pitched down syrupy slow and given a smattering of reverb. Their take on Hold Me Tight is from the first of those mixtapes – it’s not a million miles away from what some of the chillwave artists were doing at a similar time (see Washed Out’s wholesale reappropriation of Gary Low’s 1983 cut I Want You on Feel It All Around) but a little rougher and more throwaway.
  10. Ford & Lopatin – World Of Regret (2011)
    ‘Channel Pressure’, Ford & Lopatin’s debut album, was an effective and more focused follow up to the music they released as Games that’s fairly underrated compared to Lopatin’s other work. This may be because of the maligned era it evokes, a particularly pompous and excessive end of the 1980s, or it might simply be because of how far removed it is from the other OPN material. World Of Regret goes beyond mere signifiers of 80s rock, almost a study of the genre – it sounds “typically 80s” on a surface level, yet you’d be hard pressed to find anything from that era that necessarily sounds like this (the weirdness of Ford’s vocal, the My Bloody Valentine-style strings). Right down to the way it adopts even the most subtle of technical flourishes, it goes beyond mimicry.

Warp will release ‘R Plus Seven’ on the 30th September 2013.