Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica
At the end of 2011, Replica dropped on the Brooklyn record label Software, an imprint of Mexican Summer, that was founded by a 29-year old man named Daniel Lopatin. No stranger to the world of electronic music, Lopatin had produced albums for several years prior that sought to evoke the new age aesthetic of 70s and early 80s progressive synthesizer music via works with evocative titles such as Russian Mind, Betrayed in the Octagon, and Zones Without People. In 2010, he broadened his scope with the release of Returnal, which opened with a five-minute harsh noise dirge titled “Nil Admirari” and featured calls from beyond the electronic pale on the title track.
If these works were firmly rooted in the past, then they were also rooted in the capriciousness of modernism, especially with regards to the biases that come with a modern look on the past regardless of checks to control for them. Similar to James Leyland Kirby (of The Caretaker), Lopatin sampled the ideas of past forms of music as much if not more so than he sampled actual media from that era. The concept of new age, the concept of space, and the concept of “aesthetic” (insofar as such a word means anything) are as much a canvas for artistic experiments as are the synthesizers by which such music is made, and Lopatin knows that means by which a person interprets and remembers these past ideas tells far more about the creator’s contemporary ideas and histories than it ever does about the past ideas in and of themselves. These ideas were made manifest – consciously or otherwise – to the greatest extent on 2010’s Chuck Person’s ECCOJAMS Vol. 1, which is practically as much a meta-analysis on music nostalgia for the twenty-something as Kirby’s An Empty Bliss Beyond This World is for dementia patients.
Enter Replica. The main compositional element is the Roland Juno-60 synthesizer, which was the primary instrument utilized on the previous Oneohtrix Point Never albums, but the true star is Lopatin’s samplism technique. A plunderphonics album at heart (like ECCOJAMS before it), Replica melded samples of television commercials with progressive electronic music. They are digital replicas1 of their source material, but the word “replica” implies that the result is not the same as its source no matter how painstaking or precise was the attention to detail: there’s some subtle difference in the reconstruction that betrays its verisimilitude, be it merely that the replica was created later and is therefore imbued with its time – a Ship of Theseus problem, except concerning replication of form instead of replacement. So it goes for samplism.
Each track acts as a small vignette, be it the tribal-noise of the second movement to “Andro”, the soporific “Submersible”, or the lip-smacking “Sleep Dealer”. With the possible exception of “Andro” and “Power of Persuasion”, there are no lead-ins or bridges, and part of the appeal of Replica is the jump-cut technique between tracks, where the analgesic of “Submersible” is interrupted by the veritable pop music of “Up”. Generally speaking, tracks have a couple different movements whereby new elements gradually replace the old – for example, the slowly undulating piano on the title track gives way to distorted synthesizer chords and delicate glitches. Songs balance ambiance and rhythm and carefully avoid the tedium that new age music might otherwise imply: compare “Child Soldier” and “Power of Persuasion” to “Explain” or “Submersible”.
Replica is the quintessential album for modern cyberpunk music and culture in a post-Neuromancer, post-Internet world. An introspectively stimulating exercise in material both sampled and original, dead and alive; perhaps a few thousand more words could be written on its philosophy.
1. Andro – (3:55)
2. Power of Persuasion – (3:29)
3. Sleep Dealer – (3:10)
4. Remember – (3:19)
5. Replica – (4:36)
6. Nassau – (4:42)
7. Submersible – (3:49)
8. Up – (3:57)
9. Child Soldier – (3:12)
10. Explain – (6:45)