Oneohtrix Point Never Rifts

[No Fun; 2009]

Styles: future ambiance, nu-age, synth music
Others: Infinity Window, Caboladies, Emeralds, Bladerunner OST, synthesizers in general

What does it mean to be a DIY artist in 2009? For one thing, it means you probably aren't making a living off of music. One might think that Oneohtrix Point Never and other like-minded acts carry an anti-commercial agenda, content to release homespun music to only the most eager fans, happy to send a "fuck you" to the gloss of top 40 and a celebrity-obsessed culture. But surprise, surprise: unlike the oftentimes nebulous, nihilistic noise scene that dominated the DIY landscape early in this decade, the new underground is engaging every area of our culture, high and low — from the Billboard charts to your garage — with fascinating results. Almost anything can be appropriated under the "experimental" banner these days; just take the simple pop bands dripping in distortion or the multitude of nu-age acts releasing short-run cassettes while simultaneously getting name-dropped on Pitchfork. Yet one unifying factor among DIY sub-genres is a distance from monetary concerns, which should strike fear into the hearts of the Big Four CEOs: yes, music will survive one way or another, even if the industry is hemorrhaging money.

Daniel Lopatin, a.k.a Oneohtrix Point Never, is equipped with a pragmatic view of music's call-and-response with the broader culture. Of our capitalist bubble, he says: "None of us are totally culture-free, and all of us, on some level, have been sentenced with having to relate to the ‘popular’ whether we side with it or not." Which seems more appropriate and less reactionary than several of America's famous counter-culture head-spaces. And while it's easy to view Lopatin's attitudes through the prism of DIY culture in general, his music has many entry points. Listening to Rifts — a compilation of the albums Betrayed in the Octagon, Zones Without People, and Russian Mind — some will hear 80s soundtrack music, cosmic ambiance, or minimalist repetition, while others might pick up on the mishmash of noise and plastic, mystical new age music.

Indeed, as fellow TMTer Jon Lorenz [pointed out->], the sounds on Rifts look to past versions of unrealized futures for inspiration. Hearing the record in one sitting is like being in two times and places at once, like watching someone from another decade daydreaming. There is a calm certainty at the heart of these recordings that allows each track to paint a vivid and believable fantasy world through sound. Lopatin is also clearly aware of his music's dialogue with the culture it sprang from. "I'm a sponge," he says. "I love culture and the process of soaking it in is just as rewarding as working from the inside-out and making my own ‘unique’ work — really I don't see those processes as separate."

Perhaps most musically striking about Rifts is its pervading bareness, an aspect that, on the surface, disengages it from the pop canon. Oftentimes a song will appear shimmering and expansive, only to be revealed upon closer inspection as a single spare synth line arpeggiating to infinity. Other moments are filled with pure ambient texture, lending a variety somewhat rare amongst such peers as Caboladies and Emeralds. As well as providing entry points for a variety of listeners, the versatility and mobility of ONP's sound also gives Lopatin an exit strategy if he needs it. That is, through the application of a synthesizer, almost any sound-world in recent memory can be conjured in facsimile. "I wanted to make an album that flowed seamlessly through this unspoken history of musics," Lopatin reiterates, "with the synthesizer as the primary engine for the discovery and marriage of disparate musics, which to me, feel like they really belong together."

And that's really the beauty of Rifts and the movement of albums and artists it loosely represents. It's as if the overt hybridization of 21st-century music has finally produced a strange, new singular vision, with various facets being illuminated by every new CD-R and handmade tape release. Rifts' sleek digipack casing is perhaps both an unintentional laying down of the gauntlet and a nod backwards. Or maybe it's just easier to ascribe an epic narrative to an equally epic slab of music.

Disc 1:

1. Behind the Bank
2. Eyeballs
3. Betrayed in the Octagon
4. Woe is the Transgression
5. Parallel Minds
6. Laser to Laser
7. Woe Is The Transgression II
8. Computer Vision
9. Format & Journey North
10. Zones Without People
11. Learning To Control Myself
12. Disconnecting Entirely
13. Emil Cioran
14. Hyperdawn

Disc 2:

1. Months
2. Physical Memory
3. Grief and Repetition
4. Russian Mind
5. Actual Air
6. Immanence
7. Lovergirls Precinct
8. Ships Without Meaning
9. Terminator Lake
10. Transmat Memories
11. A Pact Between Strangers
12. When I Get Back From New York
13. I Know Its Taking Pictures From Another Plane (Inside Your Sun)


Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

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