“Gropius wrote a book on grain silos, Le Corbusier one on aeroplanes, and Charlotte Perriand brought a new object to the office every morning; but today we collect ads.”1 Partly in delight (partly in desperation), students of pop culture take their cues from throwaway models. Often beautiful — occasionally jarring — frequently uncanny, the 10 tracks here comprise a series of aural-cognitive maps in which predominantly-archival information is sourced, ciphered, and recalled in a series of non-hierarchical transformations and juxtapositions. If last year’s Returnal was Daniel Lopatin’s self-declared Rousseau record (“in the sense that it is a hyper-realised vision of open spaces based on ‘inauthentic’ scenarios”), Replica may be his Duchamp disque: mood music for an arch and cerebral gloom forged in the service of a playful pessimism. Replica isn’t so much a (partially Proustian) attempt at recovering lost memories (personal and collective), but a cryptophasic study of the relationships between hazy objects that, because of their anonymity in a flux of generic restagings, are peculiarly resistant to memory (videogames, piano bar jazz, OSTs, the voices of strangers).
The pith of Replica: a latticework of sibilants, laminals, clicks, implosives, ejectives, fricatives, pulmonics: a consonantal chorus of lost voices, the vocabulary of a glossa sans logos — a weave of desecrated smidgeons kindling ablaze the embers of a braked and stuttering exotica. These breaths, this lexicon, are like the same image, in the same part of the frame, occurring across several channels — differential interventions within the context of several mises en scene: vestiges of an arcane prosody. Taken as a mirroring device, this bleeding-edge bricolage aims at the experiences obscured by experience — the traditions hidden behind tradition (what Lopatin has called “Pictures, not of the actual world, but of us watching that world”). As with the work of Leyland Kirby, any impact is undergirded by a private topology of shattered dreams, ecstasies of disappointment and despair wrought from a phenomenology of the screened image. Julian House’s Focus Group project, generating library records out of bits of other library records, is another touchstone. The engineer-archaeologist has become a stylist-iconographer, tabulating.
Through a haze of filter and reverb, transposed piano grabs jam and unravel across Vangelite wisps of Blade Runner blues, themselves gossamer traces, gases loosed (“Power Of Persuasion”). On “Child Soldier,” granular laser stabs, perforated with hitbox chops, scatter, reorder, and commingle with the non-lexicable vocables of a child’s choir and a soul ensemble mangled beyond scat. A deep breath and the syllable “sbuh” run arterial through “Nassau,” a 4/4 flow traipsing in a polysyllabic briar of recorded footsteps and the sort of minimal synth-snatched melodies that Susumu Yokota based a career on.
What is going on here, but a version of what Mario Perniola (after Benjamin) has called “the sex appeal of the inorganic”? More precisely, what is this if it isn’t a “delirious performance of shouts, sexual breathing and moans… a montage that renders [the sounds of instruments and the human voice] artificial but not mechanical?” If, as Perniola observes, “the synthesizer celebrates continuous and total touching and sucking,” then what is Replica if not a demonstrative super-fetishism of representation and its techniques in a subtle conflation of commodity and sex, acousticophilia re-imagined as scopophilia tuned to the pitch of a desirous and alienated ear? A voyeuristic interrogation has become a means of production.
Let’s take it slow. This isn’t Returnal Volume 2. It’s unlike anything else in Lopatin’s discography, not just a bold step sideways, but something like an epistemological break from an artist whose work increasingly bears the weight of something like hegemony. The eclipse of Returnal (and Rifts) by Replica substitutes a broken, disoriented reality for a fantastical symbolic unity: those vast, pristine, ahistorical synthscapes have disappeared, leaving behind the shabby, formless texture of everyday life — hybrid, contradictory spaces — populous zones of bone and phosphene. In contrast to pop that is modernist, processual, or morally alert, Lopatin projects a quietly desirous fetishism. Very nice, very nice.
1. From the Independent Group’s catalogue for the 1956 exhibition This Is Tomorrow.