‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’ is mostly successful with its experimentation

by Annika Eske

‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’ is mostly successful with its experimentation

Oneohtrix Point Never

Magic Oneohtrix Point Never

Warp Records · October 30, 2020

‘Magic Oneohtrix Point Never’ is mostly successful with its experimentation

Brooklyn-based Daniel Lopatin, or Oneohtrix Point Never, has a distinct sound, owing to the diverse and unpredictable instrumentation he uses in his music. This exploratory style is continued in his latest album, Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, released on October 30th. The album is characterized by a gradation from its abstract-leaning beginning, to its more emotional and melodic conclusion.

“Cross Talk I” is only 22 seconds long, but serves as an unsettling start to the album. Standing alone, the lyrics “this is the start of morning/this is where you should be/wake up!” suggest a cheerful and tacky mood. However, “Cross Talk I” also has the distorted, fuzzy sound one might hear in an advertisement from the 1960s. A record-skipping effect is the final touch on the track’s eerie sound, which is seen again in later interludes “Cross Talk II” and “Cross Talk III.”

“Cross Talk I” leads into the twinkly “Auto & Allo,” in which every instrument and vocal track initially has an all-or-none nature, until a slowdown accompanied by the lyrics “I know a place to go.” This slowdown is helped along by soaring strings, echoing synths, and a surprisingly noticeable bass guitar part. The vocals remain heavily modulated, a recurring decision that continues throughout the album.

The section that follows “Cross Talk II” feels noticeably more emotional than the previous songs. Although, it incorporates a more noticeable beat, “I Don’t Love Me Anymore” feels like the calmer, more melodic section the album was beginning to need. However, there is still an element of dissonance in this song that ends up distracting from the beautiful soundscape it would have created otherwise.

Luckily, the album slowly develops a more balanced sound. “Bow Ecco” slowly comes to life with swells of synths and sharp tremolo-like sounds. The ending of “The Whether Channel” benefits from an even clearer soundscape. It has a crisp composition with a whimsical feeling at points. The rap part of this song also ends up being a refreshing accent to the album. Before “Cross Talk III,” Oneohtrix Point Never throws in “No Nightmares.” This song has a smooth and clean sound that beautifully carries the simple repeating lyric “no nightmares.” A quiet middle section includes a heartbeat-like sound before reverberant synths flood in. The dynamics of this song were well-planned and make it a highlight of the album.

Other songs like “Tales From The Trash Stratum” are less formulaic, but use sounds that would be beautiful even standing alone. “Imago” is similarly successful with its fleeting moments of near-silence that make the pulses of instrumentation all the more entrancing. In this case, the non-musical sounds, like static, manage to complement the warmth of the song rather distracting from it.

Other highlights from the album include “Lost But Never Alone,” “Shifting,” and “Nothing’s Special.” “Lost But Never Alone” starts strong and uses effects on vocals along with a great deal of layering as the song goes on. Notable contrasts in volume show up again in this song, cementing exaggerated dynamics as a motif of the album. Meanwhile, “Shifting” sounds ghostly and electronic with a creative use of chopped-up vocals. Finally, “Nothing’s Special” stands out in that the vocals remain pointedly modulated but are full of emotion. Adding on to the song’s impact are the inclusion of accents, such as distortion and wind instrument-like sounds. These accents slowly increase in occurrence, along with the addition of atmospheric synths, up until the defeated spoken line, “I think that’s probably it.” In this way, the album closes with a dejected mood as well as a hint of the unsettling feeling that was achieved through the interludes. 

As a whole, Magic Oneohtrix Point Never sometimes uses dissonance and abstract sounds to no effect. However, there are also several beautiful songs where experimental sounds add depth and make the songs all the more impactful. Magic Oneohtrix Point Never creatively manipulates dynamics and instrumentation to make the album well worth a listen.