For someone occasionally referred to as a bedroom producer, Daniel Lopatin has been spending a lot of time outside the homestead. His work under the moniker Oneohtrix Point Never has been creeping in to venues a bit more high profile than a buzzing Soundcloud account, one of which will be the Walker’s McGuire Theater this Saturday night. The ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi stated that Lopatin’s balance between “grandeur” and “moments of irony and lightness” is what drew them to call on him to provide a soundtrack for dancing robots at last year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. This year he was recruited to provide music for Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring and opened for Sigur Ros on their North American tour.
Perhaps the crowning achievement in his rise was this year’s announcement that he had signed to the UK label Warp Records, the preeminent imprint for electronic music since the early ’90s.
Now that he shares the ranks with genre kingpins Autechre, Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin, it’s only fitting that his latest album, R Plus 7, is his best realized work to date. His manipulation of impossibly tiny samples creates a vague, synthetic impression of space. On some tracks a tropical soundscape with ocean birds and rolling waves will enter for only a brief moment before disappearing. The effect is akin browsing through Google image search results: virtual and distant.
Perhaps most interesting is the use of sliced speech. Lopatin wrote scripts to be read by text-to-speech programs with varying degrees of expression in their voices, recorded the output, and then rearranged the syllables chromatically according to the pitch. He then used these pitches as an instrument and included the results as the lyric sheet in the packaging of the album. This haphazard method of creation is a recurring theme – the album’s title is derived from a French “potential literature” style called Oulipo, which can involve the “N+7” technique of replacing a noun by the seventh one to follow it in the dictionary. (These topics were discussed in a recent interview with the publication Electronic Beats.)
To the uninitiated, R Plus 7 may sound like a unique twist on classical minimalism, and that is no accident. Lopatin has mentioned in interviews with The Quietus and Stereogum that he became obsessed with the pipe organ during its creation, particularly the notion that he could juxtapose traditional and religious timbres with the warped digital textures he’s known for. He referred to the aforementioned cast of synthetic voices as his own personal “Greek choir,” and the very concept behind the technique is not too far removed from the manipulation employed by Steve Reich on his seminal “Different Trains” recording. The opener “Boring Angel,” with its arpeggiations that gradually devolve in to a cacophony of those vocal samples, sounds like what one might expect from Glass or Reich were they internet-savvy thirty-somethings.
At the Walker, OPN will be sharing the bill with Montreal native Tim Hecker, whose newest release, Virgins, acts as a more sinister and organic counterpart to Lopatin’s plunderphonic vapor. The demand for two of the foremost electronic/ambient composers on the same ticket has been such that a second show at 10:30 has been added.