As Oneohtrix Point Never Daniel Lopatin has never ceased to pose questions. Lopatin’s music is electronic experimentalism channelled into deceptively easy-to-swallow packages, hence OPN having become one of the most famous hard-to-pronounce monikers in the world of contemporary music. With Age Of, his latest effort, Lopatin’s questioning has reached levels of difficulty that puts pronouncing Oneohtrix (it’s One-oh-trix, in case you genuinely aren’t sure) into the shade. This is a wonderfully baffling album that simultaneously fits seamlessly into Lopatin’s discography whilst sounding like little that he has produced to date.
The album opens in another age entirely, with the opening titular track’s baroque MIDI harpsichords recalls esoteric early electronica, in which the synthesizer’s capacity for replicating old sounds was as important as its ability to create new ones. Things only get stranger on ‘Babylon’, a mutant pop ditty from a future century in which that seems consciously designed to divide listeners. By the time we’ve arrived at ‘The Station’, the fourth track here, the record has already taken on the vibe of a mixtape. I’m hesitant of spoiling the surprises contained within, but let’s just say ‘The Station’ was written for Usher and leave it there. Later in the album we get hints of the komische Lopatin channelled on last year’s Good Time soundtrack, swathes of glitch, and no shortage of the exceptionally inventive sound design Lopatin has become known for. This is, in some ways, the most accessible OPN record to date. Yet it also veers from concept to concept with a complete disregard for listenability. Ideas appear and disappear with the sort of semi-cohesive randomness most experimental artists dream about being able to conjure up.
In a recent interview with The Quietus, Lopatin spoke at length about Age Of’s conceptual meaning. The album acts, he suggests, as an inversion of Stanley Kubrick’s 50-year-old classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, the twist being that artificial intelligences in Lopatin’s futural setting know and can do everything but choose to “hang out dreaming of being dumb” instead. Conceived as part of a wider project, under the name ‘Myriad’ (which lends its name to one track – ‘Myriad Industries’ – here), Lopatin is open about wanting this album – and the associated ‘Myriad’ live shows – to kick-start a move into larger scale art projects.
It’s difficult, however, to see this record as a bridge to anything. Age Of is a maddening, compelling, even thrilling record that feels like a conclusive summation of everything the Oneohtrix Point Never project has been (or even hinted at) to date. I’m not sure there are any answers contained within, but yet again Lopatin has proved himself a master of thought-provoking contemporary electronic music.