On 7th July 2018, Oneohtrix Point Never is performing in London. This is fairly unremarkable news: it is just a gig after all. Except that is not how Daniel Lopatin does things. According to Resident Advisor, “Dancers wearing prosthetic masks, cowboy hats and leotards” are involved. A quartet including Lopatin will execute his tenth, and latest, album ‘Age Of’ in front of an array of visual delicacies. It will be two years to the day that he performed on that same stage. Last time round he was flanking the talents of ANOHNI, the solo project from Antony and the Johnsons’ vocalist Anohni. Most producers would snigger at the opportunity to play the Barbican. But Oneohtrix Point Never is unlike most producers.
That is why Lopatin’s discography is so thrilling. Even ten albums in, Oneohtrix Point Never has refused to forge a unique sound. Sure, his music more often than not sounds like you are listening to a song while someone messes around with the volume control, but each album is unlike any other. ‘Age Of’ is no different.
Three years have passed since the organic hell that is ‘Garden of Delete’ scared thousands. Sonically, ‘Age Of’ is a venture into a whole different universe. The album is a performance of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ while the musicians are getting electrocuted. Unsettling chords are interjected by waves of voltage – where Lopatin conceived these ideas is a mystery.
The title track is as if you had walked into the weirdest Stefon-endorsed nightclub. Strings emerge halfway through, marred only by the sounds of saws – potentially – in the distance, slashing at any sense of comfort.
To call ‘Age Of’ “accessible” is not a lie, rather a misguide. It is violent, upsetting and startling. ‘The Station’ is as poppy as any song on the record, building upon a guitar line that ‘Justified’-era Justin Timberlake would harvest without consideration. The last minute however is a battle between driving guitars and robotic screeches – as if a radio is losing signal.
But ‘Age Of’ is so much more than sporadic shrieks from hell. Essences of melody occasionally worm their way through the resistance and when they do, it is stunning. ‘Toys 2’ is less skeletal than other OPN cuts. For the first half, warm sounds occupy the track before it breaks free, filling the silence with the cleansing sound of bouncy notes.
‘Warning’ is a passionate and aggressive cut; chopped vocals dominate the product, whispers of “warning” build, creeping up before a distorted titular shout claws at your ears. It is the closest thing you can dance to, with a satisfying injection of bass introduced halfway through. It says a lot about Oneohtrix Point Never that if you want to dance to one of his songs, you must first walk for a minute through a bush of nettles while someone shouts “WARNING” at you.
Daniel Lopatin’s frequent collaborator Anohni features predominantly on ‘Age Of’, and her feature on ‘Same’ is what she does best; bringing the grandeur of the opera to a satanic cut that uses sandpaper like a blanket. She reappears on ‘Still Stuff That Doesn’t Happen’, a song which is, dare I say, catchy. With jazzy drums and Anohni’s omnibenevolent vocals, it is easy on the ears and a rewarding comedown after the onslaught that came before.
It is not just Anohni that Lopatin has brought on; James Blake carries the gauntlet when it comes to mixing and co-producing, which may explain some of the warmer moments. The aforementioned scream of “warning” is provided by the talent that is Prurient.
‘Age Of’ brings to mind The Good Place; heavenly on the surface but not all is as it seems. Oneohtrix Point Never has created another body of work that flops around, requiring multiple listens and headphones. At times the sounds are too uncomfortable to digest but perseverance brings joyous, if brief, relief. All is in order then.
‘Age Of’ is out now via Warp Records