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Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica review

Following up last year’s Returnal was never going to be easy for Daniel Lopatin; it felt very much like a focused encapsulation of the sound that he had been developing over his early career rather than a significant step forward. Heavily reliant on arpeggios and synth drones emanating from his Roland Juno-60, his sound then was one that, although distinctive and utterly engrossing, was already perilously close to the edge of self-parody, something not helped by the waves of imitators that have followed in his wake.

Replica isn’t a total reinvention of Lopatin’s music, but it is a reinvention of the way he creates it. Using his Juno-60 as the backdrop for much of the tracks, he utilises audio culled from television advertisement compilations as the textural focus of many of the tracks, recomposing what would otherwise be quaint oddities as sweeping statements of emotion. “Power Of Persuasion” for example takes various piano loops and embeds them within a drawn out synth horn solo evoking Vangelis. It’s not totally different from his earlier work, but somehow, with that extra layer to filter his sound through, Lopatin’s emotionally ambiguous music is given an entirely new dimension.

As an album it’s much more rhythmically driven that previous material; “Sleep Dealer” takes a number of tiny loops including breathy sighs, a flute solo, and unidentifiable trilling and arranges them in a regular stop-start manner which recalls James Ferraro’s similar magpie-like approach to sampling, but without the garish, ADD nature of his creations. “Sleep Dealer” even has the rhythm and mood of the club buried within its stop-start structure, as does “Remember” with its soulful vocal loops trapped within its sludgy core.

Whilst “Up” goes so far as to include sampled percussion embedded within its swelling strings, the rhythmic effect is usually quite subtle; “Child Soldier” is a maelstrom of 8-bit video game sounds combined with vocal stabs and swooning pads. But whilst these strange rhythms are a key component of the album, they also create a weird feeling of inertia; loops skip like a broken record, preventing motion. Infinity has always been a core theme of Lopatin’s work but instead of the otherworldly drift of his previous work, Lopatin uses his equipment in a new way to create those show-stopping cinematic moments that were always his forte, by locking the listener into their own headspace.

The undoubted centrepiece and highlight of the album is “Replica”; much like the track at the core of his last LP, “Returnal”, which also gave the album its name, it stops you dead in your tracks. This synchronicity doesn’t seem like a coincidence; Lopatin is a master at punctuating his music with moments of drama. Coming out of the comparatively neutral “Remember” and going into the weightlessness of “Nassau”, its haunting piano sticks out like a sore thumb,  but as much as infinity is central to his music, its relative scale is difficult to comprehend, and “Replica” offers an anchor point which breaks the album’s spell long enough to create an emotional wormhole into to his engrossing, complex sound.

Scott Wilson