Morrow vs. Hajduch: Ford & Lopatin’s Channel Pressure

By Scott Morrow and Patrick Hajduch
June 29, 2011

Scott Morrow is ALARM’s music editor. Patrick Hajduch is a very important lawyer. Each week they debate the merits of a different album.

Ford & Lopatin: Channel PressureFord & Lopatin: Channel Pressure (Software / Mexican Summer, 6/7/11)

Ford & Lopatin: “World of Regret”

[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Ford__Lopatin_World_of_Regret.mp3|titles=Ford & Lopatin: “World of Regret”]

Hajduch: Ford & Lopatin (formerly Games) is comprised of Daniel Lopatin (a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never) and Joel Ford (from indie/’80s-pastiche band Tigercity).  Their music together is a jittery, looped amalgam of trashy ’80s vibes.  Riffs and vocals are recorded, deconstructed, down-sampled, and smashed back together.  Their previous output as Games was a hypnotic series of tightly looped samples from synth-pop hits that never existed.

Channel Pressure takes the conceit a step further, adding occasional lyrics and the nebulous idea of a concept album.  If you toned down the funk (and the length) of the poppier songs from Daft Punk‘s Discovery, and made them a bit more spastic, you’d approach the sound of Channel Pressure.

Morrow: To me, it sounds like Prefuse 73 twisting around the Miami Vice theme.  The ’80s synth sounds and fake drum hits are out of control.  Between those elements, the airy pop vocals, and the deep, bouncy bass, Channel Pressure has enough nostalgia to unleash a torrent of endorphins for anyone born before 1988. (Entertainingly, one song is titled “Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me).”)

But there’s enough of a modern and experimental twist (hence the slightly stretched Prefuse comparison), and that prevents it from being strict homage.

Hajduch: Yeah, I think that the smooth ’80s sound and quasi-R&B song structures belie how crazy the programming is. Drum hits and synth stabs are everywhere, and the vocals get tweaked, but it never feels busy or crazy like a lot of music in that vein does. It’s really noticeable if you hear the instrumentals of the vocal tracks — these songs don’t sit still, even when they sound straightforward.

Morrow: Absolutely. There are tracks such as “Joey Rodgers” that are basically croon-filled synth-pop sing-alongs, but little quirks appear in the background.  That tune then leads into an instrumental called “Dead Jammer,” which is a polyrhythmic yet relaxing mixture where the guitar, bass, and programmed sounds all do different things.

This isn’t my favorite type of music, and songs such as “Break Inside” take some of the cheesier effects to an R. Kelly-esque level.  Even then, however, it’s much weirder than nearly anything you’d hear on the radio.

Hajduch: It’s impressive that they’ve made something strange and pretty universally likable at the same time. In an interview, they discussed a pretty huge studio setup — a substantial echo chamber, a battery of synthesizers and drum machines and samples — and it’s cool to hear it applied to make “genuine” sounding, heartfelt, yet totally bizarre and kitschy homage to a dated period. And with so many bands mining similar territory to boring results, it’s also cool to hear somebody get it right.

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