Oneohtrix Point Never - “Age Of” review
And so begins Philip Glowa’s Music Blog for KSUA 91.5 FM.
So this came out on June 1st I believe. It is probably something like his 20th full-length record? Daniel Lopatin a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never (OPN) has a lot of singles & EPs too. Discogs says 51 in total, and also this guy invented vaporwave back in 2010 with his “eccojams” which were just endless loops of chopped & screwed pop song hooks with lots of delay and reverb (check out END OF LIFE ENTERTAINMENT SCENARIO #1). Basically, D-Lo has released a lot of music in the last ten years and he has been quite influential.
That kind of taking apart and re-molding of cultural miscellany has continued to inform OPN’s music ever since, but with every album he’s gotten a bit more hyper. Anyhow let us get to this album. “Age Of” is a bit of a mixed bag, as they say. Like Gorp or something, unless you love chompin down on a bunch of weird shit all at once, you might not like every moment of this album. I’d say it is OPN’s take on a prog album or something. The album starts out with the title track “Age Of”, which is kind of grandiose with harpsichords n’ such boppin around with static yelps and screams ripping it apart. It has a bit of a free jazz sound, which is promptly negated by the following track.
There are several attempts at what one might consider “pop” songs on this record. There’s “Babylon” which sounds like a Bon Iver outtake, “The Station” which actually started as an instrumental commissioned by Usher but was rejected. This tune is pretty deece. It has this grunge/90’s rnb hybrid thing going on and then it fades into space ambience over a general midi guitar loop. Feels a bit like a cop-out. Then there is “Black Snow” which has this beat poet / country singer / android vibe going on. A leisurely paced tune that dips into the uncanny valley as it goes on with strange inhaling noises and groaning sounds. Those are really the three tunes that border on being “pop”.
Peppered between those 3 tunes are “Manifold”, which is a contemplative interlude that is a good aural synecdoche for the rest of the album. It fuses a pleasantly sombre piano ostinato with wailing synths and distorted and reversed rhythmic screaming. There is “Toys 2” which apparently was OPN making a hypothetical main theme for a sequel to the 1992 bizzaro fantasy movie starring Robin Williams. It’s a slightly bombastic and positive sounding piece that is very melodic, yet doesn’t forget to add some creepy distorted bits. It almost settles into a loopy new age loop that was one of the defining features of his 2013 album, “R Plus Seven”. However, it doesn’t capture the feeling of awe that I got from that album.
Anyhow, after “Black Snow” it gets into the good stuff (for me, at least). “myriad.industries” serves as a minute-long bridge into the second half of the album, which I find to be the more compelling half. The interude features aquatic knocking, crows squawking, more glitchy harpsichord noodling, and a creepy Ligeti choir outro. Then we get “Warning” which is a tense and cinematic thing that has this ominous voice repeating “WARNING, WARNING, WARNING, WARNING”, etc. It has sounds of glass breaking and seamlessly transitions into something like a trap beat with kind of paint-by-numbers OPNisms carrying it out.
“We’ll Take It” follows, with spacious metallic reverb surrounding a beat that sounds like someone harshly pulling on packing tape. There are deep and militaristic pads that remind me of the game MDK (check it out sometime). It of course, abruptly ends, like most things on this album. “Same” is one of the cooler moments on this album, with collaborator ANOHNI’s highly processed vocals providing some kind of cultish refrain while the space around the track flitters around in glitched out chaos and screaming while ironically falling into religious sounding choir and organ.
“RayCats” is where the album takes the best turn, IMO. It hones in on an energy and aesthetic that I wish this album would’ve focused on. Basically this tune, “Still Stuff That Doesn’t Happen” and “Last Known Image Of A Song” feel a bit like a suite. They have a similar kind of sombre, noir-ish jazzy sound comprised of verb’d out pads, melodic dulcimer passages, acoustic bass, brushed snares, culminating in an enjoyable melancholy. I’d love to hear an entire album of this kind of posthuman jazz…(hint: there are plenty of albums out there that achieved just that, like, 30 years ago).
All that said, I would recommend anyone watch the music video for “Black Snow” if they want to see some real surrealist shit.