Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

Music
cover art

Oneohtrix Point Never

Returnal

(Editions Mego; US: 22 Jun 2010; UK: 14 Jun 2010)

You can be excused for thinking, upon putting on Returnal, the latest by Boston’s Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never, that you’ve gotten a hold of the wrong album.  “Nil Admirari” opens the album with a primal scream and wailing feedback that continues to flutter, seize, and tantrum for five minutes.  “Perhaps the record label Editions Mego swapped this disc with that Prurient LP it put out a few years back”, you might think. “Nil Admirari” hardly resembles the pristinely erected sound sculptures for which Lopatin has come to be known. Yet by track two, you’ve barely noticed that Lopatin has swapped the power noise for its opposite: waves of patient, oceanic, drone stasis. That cut,“Describing Bodies”, doesn’t function so much as a juxtaposition, as a lingering numbness or a pleasant tinnitus resulting from the aftershocks of the first track. Next in the succession is “Stress Waves”, which is a woozy attempt at recovery.  Lopatin’s infamous arpeggios struggle to work their way back into the mix, but sound wounded, drunk, or short-circuited.  This is not the strobing pulse of dance stripped of its 808s, as was the case on much of the previous release, Rifts, this is another kind of storytelling altogether.


Thoughtfully conceived transitions like the ones described above make Returnal far more of a coherent album than Oneohtrix Point Never’s prior works.  Lopatin has always excelled at making his pieces laconic and precise, which is perhaps why they’ve been so palatable to a larger indie audience. Yet, Returnal proves that he can work his way around a long form record as well. The title seems to be a portmanteau of “return” and “eternal”, suggesting a perpetual recycling and endless recurrence.  One track is titled “Where Does Time Go?” as opposed to “Where Does The Time Go?”.  This minor distinction means the question is not about pondering the acceleration of one’s life, but questioning the physical absence of moments after they happen, their limited temporal existence and ongoing arrivals and departures. 


The title track, meanwhile, degrades its alien voice by simultaneously pitch-bending itself both up and down the register, creating false harmonies whose lyrics remain just out of reach as a result. It seems Oneohtrix Point Never seeks to alienate the pop song so that we don’t keep returning to the same thing eternally.  As usual, one of music’s most exciting artists has put out a challenging, unexpected, and brain-melting record.

Rating:

Timothy Gabriele is a writer who studied English and Film at the University of Massachussetts at Amherst. He currently lives in the New Haven, CT region with his fmaily. His column, The Difference Engine, appears regularly at PopMatters. He can be found twittering @Wildcorrective and blogging at 555 Enterprises.


Media
Oneohtrix Point Never- "Returnal"
Related Articles
5 Aug 2014
Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden brought their co-headlining tour to Jones Beach in Long Island for a sold-out show.
24 Oct 2013
In third album as Oneohtrix Point Never, electronic composer Daniel Lopatin works in a palette of sounds that are almost, but not quite recognizable, with structures that are nearly, but not really songs. "I'm interested in things that are on the edge of becoming real," he says. "I was thinking about that a lot."
1 Oct 2013
In brief, R Plus Seven deemphasizes Replica’s sense of walled-off claustrophobia, letting thick puddles of light filter into Lopatin’s lair of sound.
26 Jun 2013
Oneohtrix Point Never's latest album, 'R Plus Seven', will be released October 1st.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.