Daniel Lopatin, aka Oneohtrix Point Never, spun a rather tangled yarn when providing context for his forthcoming album Garden of Delete. This included a five-page PDF file where he told an odd story of meeting a collaborator named “Ezra” and name-dropped an obscure band known as Kaoss Edge. Looking at the official website of Kaoss Edge, Oneohtrix Point Never fans went on to assume that it was a fake band that Lopatin just thought up one day. SoundCloud samples and a statement from the “hypergrunge” band’s singer perpetuate any myth you like. As of this writing, nothing about this is substantiated. Lopatin gave his album a back-story that’s a tough to swallow as reading his stage name out loud for the first time.
Lopatin can screw with us all he wants. Or he can do nothing at all because the music that he creates is challenging enough on its own. Listening to an Oneohtrix Point Never album straight through is not unlike a Frankenstein dissection. Electronic music already has a reputation, both good and not-so-good, of chop-shopping its songs together. Considering this, Lopatin still manages to stand out from the pack. Garden of Delete is another adventure of watching your own sense of subjectivity drown in a pool of confusion. Is this 45-minute mash of mush excellent, or merely okay? Are these songs meant to make me euphoric or paranoid? Are some songs stronger than others or is it possible to have the wrong “perception” of the whole thing? Also, did a new song just begin? I found myself thinking that again and again, even after listening to Garden of Delete for weeks. Sometimes Lopatin will randomly throw a rebooting sequence into a song without warning. Sometimes two seemingly unrelated ideas will find themselves to be neighbors in a single track. It’s one great big What-The-Hell-Is-Happening moment that I dare you to play at your wedding reception.
The track that Oneohtrix Point Never tossed out first for all to hear is, “I Bite Through It”, which is odd because it doesn’t exactly distill the usual elements that artists will bottle up for an album’s first taste. It’s about as accessible/inaccessible as most of the other tracks, which is to say that different components of the music (tonality versus the sound of the synthesizer) are a little bit at odds with one another. When a rhythm is set, it’s a manic-depressive one that sounds like a synthesizer stuck in a particular pulsating mode. This all drops away roughly halfway through, creates a vacuum for rubato pointillism, then restates the “theme” with a scathing set of scrapes. This pattern repeats once more with an even quieter passage. “I Bite Through It” fades out in confusion. Yet, I don’t think this song has the greatest impact. No, if you’re getting started with “I Bite Through It”, then that’s what you’re doing — just getting started.
Garden of Delete‘s beginning is far gutsier. The 29-second “Intro” sounds like a glitched-gilded goblin growling after it was rudely awakened by your finger pressing the PLAY button. “Ezra” gets things rolling spectacularly. Ghostly samples marking the downbeat, a perfectly-executed guitar arpeggio making up another sample, and a razor-sharp sky-high snyth attack combine to open up the song dazzlingly so. “Sticky Drama” would be more listener-friendly if it weren’t for the industrial elements trying to smother the sped-up vocal samples. One such voice gets a moment all to its own as, when slowing down, you get a small glimpse of someone asking rhetorically what “is wrong with the world.” The reason I leave out the question mark is because I don’t know if it was a question or a statement.
Now that I think about it, that’s a perfect parallel to draw for all of these electronic artists that sound like they want to go toe-to-toe with Salvador Dali. As abstraction spirals further and further away, can we hear the music as a some sort of firm declaration or as a rhetorical question that will just go on forever? Oneohtrix Point Never could be a sobering artist making “Mutant Strange” for the ages or the American echo of Shitmat waiting for people to catch on to the ruse. If you ever felt like getting to the bottom of it all, you can always corner Daniel Lopatin himself and ask who Ezra is and whether or not Kaoss Edge is real. But something tells me that straight answers to those questions, or any others that I have posed, come close to cracking the Oneohtrix Point Never nut. You’re probably better off slipping into the jigsaw with as few questions as your ears will allow.