Music

Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica

On Replica, Oneohtrix Point Never creates a sonic mélange composed largely of '80s refuse, but it's so lacking in recognizable reference points that it precludes retro sample-spotting and wistful nostalgia alike; but it's a fascinating listen in its own right.


Oneohtrix Point Never

Replica

Label: Software
US Release Date: 2011-11-08
UK Release Date: 2011-11-07
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Since reading Simon Reynolds' Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to Its Own Past this summer, I've spent an inordinate amount of time consciously and sub-consciously policing the music I listen to for retro-ness. Is there a purpose beyond comfortable familiarity that justifies the "Try a Little Tenderness" sample on "Otis"? What are the implications of evoking an era through meticulous mimicry rather than direct reuse? On Replica, Oneohtrix Point Never creates a sonic mélange composed largely of '80s refuse, but it's so lacking in recognizable reference points that it precludes retro sample-spotting and wistful nostalgia alike; but it's a fascinating listen in its own right.

Daniel Lopatin, the brains behind Oneohtrix Point Never, is one of the few past-referencing artists that Reynolds lets off the hook in his book, and it's easy to understand why. Although some of Lopatin's most popular projects to date are his YouTube-released "echo jams" that isolate and loop sections of '80s songs to encourage meditative musical listening (roughly equivalent to the slow food movement), these efforts stymie rather than encourage ravenous online retro consumption. Until now, Oneohtrix Point Never was probably the least postmodern -- the least obviously referential -- of his projects, despite some inspirational debt to '70s electronic artists like Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream. While 2010's Returnal broadened the Oneohtrix Point Never palette to include noisy album-opener "Nil Admirari", a title track that veered close enough to a traditional pop song that Antony Hegarty managed a vocal and piano arrangement, and "preyouandi", which now sounds like a dry run at Replica's loop-heavy technique in retrospect, the album was still largely rooted in dense synth pads and shimmery sequencing.

Lopatin has claimed that Replica is his attempt at fusing the repetitive sensibility of his echo jams (which have been released under the names sunsetcorps and Chuck Person) with the long-form synth explorations on previous Oneohtrix Point Never albums. To bring his echo jam sensibility to this material, Lopatin uses an unlikely sample source: a collection of '80s commercials. It's tempting to attribute this choice to Marxist critique, to evocation of a childhood lived in the Reagan era, or to both, but Lopatin's method renders these interpretations practically irrelevant to anyone going in cold. Lopatin chops pilfered phrases into unidentifiable bits -- an exhalation, decontextualized phonemes, piano phrases that never resolve -- to the point that it's impossible to pinpoint where the commercial content ends and his original keyboard and vocal contributions begin, much less determine the original context of the samples. Even situating the sounds of the samples in an era-specific context, as one might with the vintage educational video soundbites on Boards of Canada's Music Has the Right to Children, is all-but-impossible.

This obscuring of context renders Lopatin's decision to use such a specific set of recordings somewhat puzzling, but it also helps situate Replica as a stand-alone work rather than tying it up in commentary and referentiality. It's certainly his most sonically adventurous outing to date. Although his core concept necessitates a fair bit of repetitive looping, Lopatin varies his approach with unconventional textures, granting a set of nonsensical vocal snippets and high piano notes the role of honorary rhythm section on "Sleepdealer", and positioning a Homer Simpson-like "up!" as the hook to the appropriately-titled "Up" (oh, yeah -- parts of Replica betray a distinct sense of humor). Lopatin saves some of his best tricks for the tracks least obviously grounded in rhythmic loops. "Andro" stacks soothing chords over a sample collage that brings to mind an emergency scene complete with sirens, beeping medical equipment, and hurried conversation. On the title track, electronic fuzz and an odd melodic lead (instrumentally indeterminate, but oddly evoking jazz guitarist Bill Frisell) flirt with a pretty piano pattern that repeats and breaks down.

In a few instances, Lopatin resolves his compositions a little too predictably. On both "Up" and "Child Soldier," a composition powered by abrupt, disconcerting samples of children's exclamations, he simply fades out the unnerving loops and resolves on reassuring synth pads. This device comes across as particularly sloppy and manipulative on an album that often seems designed deliberately to problematicize expression. It should come as little surprise that building electronic compositions out of decontextualized snippets of human voices does not humanize the compositions, but rather does the opposite. We remain aware that voices that once expressed full, coherent thoughts (in the service of TV ads, of course, but this seems beside the point) have been rendered into a sort of inhuman, rhythmically precise glossolalia. In Replica's best moments, though, Lopatin takes this inhumanity into account and doesn't seek to offset the jarring effect with obvious tricks. Instead, he simply lets the disembodied voices become so well-integrated into his compositions that the only human "voice" that matters is his own, expressed in the non-language of others.

7

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Music

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

Despite the uninspired packaging in this complete series set, Friday Night Lights remains an outstanding TV show; one of the best in the current golden age of television.

There are few series that have earned such universal acclaim as Friday Night Lights (2006-2011). This show unreservedly deserves the praise -- and the well-earned Emmy. Ostensibly about a high school football team in Dillon, Texas—headed by a brand new coach—the series is more about community than sports. Though there's certainly plenty of football-related storylines, the heart of the show is the Taylor family, their personal relationships, and the relationships of those around them.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Mixing some bland "alternate" and "film" versions of Whitney Houston's six songs included on The Bodyguard with exemplary live cuts, this latest posthumous collection for the singer focuses on pleasing hardcore fans and virtually no one else.

No matter how much it gets talked about, dissected, dismissed, or lionized, it's still damn near impossible to oversell the impact of Whitney Houston's rendition of "I Will Always Love You".

Keep reading... Show less
4
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image