Published Jun 11, 2018A Daniel Lopatin album is always an occasion. For one, the fanfare generated by Lopatin, better known as Oneohtrix Point Never, is effective, like a masterfully played instrument. Secondly, the visual artistry accompanying the music is always as provocative and innovative as what it envelops. Age Of is, of course, a collaborative effort, with a number of featured vocalists, instrumentalists and a certain James Blake to help tie it all together. In the wrong hands, this cacophony of influences and contributors could fall into disarray. Thankfully, however, that is far from the case.
Age Of begins with the title track, a harpsichord medley that reminds us of Lopatin's tricks of the trade. As on Garden of Delete, Lopatin's arrangements and processing techniques are as inventive as ever. This is a good thing, where the haphazardness becomes an element of the musical DNA that pulls Age Of into cohesion. Gone, however, are the trance-inspired arpeggios and EDM sonic tropes that inspired the previous effort, only to be replaced by a baroque-inspired soundscape. This is also most notable on the title track, and "myriad.industries," which appears later.
Vocal performances form a major part of Age Of, given that this is Lopatin's attempt at pushing past pop music encumbrances. Auto-Tune is ever present, but is always applied tastefully and creatively. Tracks like "Babylon" and "Black Snow," which feature Dominick Fernow (of Prurient and Vatican Shadow fame) and Anohni respectively, highlight this approach. Often, the performances are mangled beyond recognition; other times, they stand in crystalline quality that sits above the chaos of the instrumentals underneath. The most chilling of these vocal efforts is "Same," where Lopatin's instrumentation melds with Anohni's vocals in an effect that approaches something haunting, profound and almost operatic.
For every moment of dissonance, there is harmonic reprieve. Kelsey Lu's keyboard musings take centre stage on "Manifold," only to be interrupted by Lopatin's signature feedback screeches and distorted samples. A proggy synth solo crowns the denouement to satisfying effect. "Toys 2" fulfills its titular namesake with quirk and personality, but also with elements of nostalgia and sensitivity. "Last Known Image of a Song" offers moments of jazz modality merged with synth ambience, similar to certain Grischa Lichtenberger releases on Raster-Noton. An abrupt ending to the track pulls you out of Lopatin's world jarringly, but likely as an intentioned effect.
What Oneohtrix Point Never accomplishes on Age Of is similar to that of Garden of Delete. Taking a sonic palette and deconstructing it to the point of only referential recognition, yet somehow managing to maintain sonic congruency is what Daniel Lopatin is a master at. Sure, there are minor gripes: the tail end of the album doesn't fully measure to the first half, and the avant-electronic approach is sure to be off-putting to listeners who stick to more structured forms of music.
However, for everyone else, Age Of is both a sonic treat, and potentially a precursor to how the future of pop music may sound. Fortunately, we need not imagine, because Daniel Lopatin is already there. (Warp)