Morrow vs. Hajduch: Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica

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

Oneohtrix Point Never: ReplicaOneohtrix Point Never: Replica (Software / Mexican Summer, 11/8/11)

Oneohtrix Point Never: “Replica”

[audio:|titles=Oneohtrix Point Never: “Replica”]

Hajduch: One-man experimental electronic project Oneohtrix Point Never is discussed in the same breath with all the other John Carpenter / kosmische / synthesizer music that has garnered attention the past few years (most notably, the oft-mentioned-here Emeralds). However, during that time, the Oneohtrix sound has wandered further and further from the reservation, incorporating blistering noise and looped samples. Replica continues this trend, layering the mournful polysynth washes with odd, clipped samples from television commercials.

Morrow: We talked about Daniel Lopatin‘s collaborative Ford & Lopatin (with Joel Ford of Tigercity) back in June, but that was a much more ’80s-influenced and synth-heavy album. Replica is very ambient, and though it may seem shapeless at first, there are all sorts of sampled melodies percolating beneath the surface. To those unaccustomed to this style, the album can come off as inaccessible or difficult to appreciate, but if you spend some time and immerse yourself in the waves of sound, it should grow on you. The subtlety of the music is best served with repeated listens.

Hajduch: Since his early material was so relatively straightforward (the 2CD Rifts compiles much of it; the aggregate effect is more than two hours of melancholy chords and arpeggios), hearing a track like “Sleep Dealer” stumble and re-trigger endlessly is a bit disorienting. The vocal clips are of breathy between-word sibilance and grunts and clicks and breathing. There is a melody in the same way that earlier songs by The Field have a melody: the tension of repetition with the very occasional relief of resolution. The song is beautiful but in a strange, grotesque way.

Morrow: That sort of cobbled sampling also leads “Nassau,” which creates a piecemeal melody and rhythm with the different noises. It’s very repetitious — and some will say annoying — but if nothing else, it’s an interesting exercise in what can constitute an instrument or beat (or music in general). When the more familiar synths and samples appear at the end, there’s a relief in that familiarity.

In other news: sibilance!

Hajduch: In that regard, listening to Replica is kind of a cat-and-mouse game, where the search for tonal new-age synth bliss is repeatedly frustrated by the more challenging sample-heavy material. I think that Lopatin struck a great balance here; your mileage may vary. If you’re looking to cut straight to the bliss, album closer “Explain” sounds like an Enya song. Listen to that soft fingerplucked bass and sail away, sail away, sail away.

Morrow: Or, if you prefer, come and fly. In fairness to Mr. Lopatin, I wouldn’t tie him to the queen of the aether, but you are correct to point out the new-age qualities. Of course, they’re still really fucked-up new-age qualities…and that album cover won’t be attracting many soccer moms.

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