Release Date: Oct 30, 2020
Record label: Warp
One of the questions that Oneohtrix Point Never seeks to answer on 'Magic Oneohtrix Point Never' is: what is it that makes radio so appealing? Why, for example, in a hyper-individualised era of streaming what you want, when you want, do we come back to it? Is there something comforting about the jingles, ads or breathy presenter's announcements? What does it reveal about the presenter and the listeners? Can it bring people together? A fascination with radio has informed much of Daniel Lopatin's output and inspired his moniker, but this question posed itself more urgently this year as, like many of us, he found himself in a reflective mood. Radio, it seems, is the ideal medium to showcase and look back on Lopatin's musical whims and ontological concerns. His previous, detail-oriented work, which spans from vaporwave, to warped R&B and tense film OSTs (the Safdie brothers' 'Uncut Gems'), is concerned with nostalgia and the search for 'some feeling'.
On his new record Oneohtrix Point Never has established that there used to be an indisputable sense of alchemy involved in listening to music on the radio. Sequenced to suggest an FM station being browsed, it conveys the requisite tensions as your hand gripped feverishly onto the dial and you looped from left to right back and forth, deliberately scanning the mutable airwaves trying to lock down and summon bodies of sound from the ether. Sometimes voices would converse on top of one another forming oppositional languages.
Like any handover of power, a radio-station format change--from country to classic rock, say, or Top 40 to oldies--follows a loose script. A farewell from the outgoing station manager, a second or two of dead air, and then the benediction from the victorious new regime. No wax seals memorialize these fleeting events; no toppled statues litter the ground.
The Lowdown: The pseudonym of Brooklyn-based electronic musician Daniel Lopatin, Oneohtrix Point Never has made a name for himself not only with his own releases, but also through his collaborations with notable artists like Tim Hecker, FKA Twigs, and The Weeknd. He's also found acclaim as the composer for both Safdie brothers films -- 2017's Good Time and 2019's Uncut Gems -- and he set a high bar with 2018's Age Of. Thus, he had quite the task in front of him in making its follow-up, Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, a worthwhile addition to his impressive and renowned catalog.
Oneohtrix Point Never is one of the most frequently discussed artists in experimental electronic music because, well, he fucking did it. Over the past 13 years, he's gone from dragging his Juno 60 around to house shows to backing up The Weeknd on SNL and mugging with Adam Sandler and Kevin Garnett. Fellow denizens of the synth underground, especially those who haven't made it to Hollywood, tend to bring up Onoehtrix Point Never with a mix of awe and envy.