Oneohtrix Point Never







Brooklyn-based Daniel Lopatin‘s Ambient project Oneohtrix Point Never incessantly delivers soundscapes chock-full of different moods ranging from ethereal over drone to static noises. On Replica, Lopatin spices the soundscapes with chopped up advertising jingles and samples, alters them heavily and presents 10 of his astonishingly dynamic results, some of them being Pop Ambient contestants, others being heavily synthesized futuristic pieces in the veins of Future Sound Of London and Pete Namlook. There is always a certain tumult and restlessness in each song; mellow synth washes, if any, are traversed by dissonances, crackles or hissing noises, probably consisting of slowed down or pitched-up advertisements beyond recognition. The underlying message transports an ironic viewpoint: what reviewers and listeners consider as beautiful, eerie or successful in Replica‘s songs might be derived from the opposite spectrum – frightening synths might be the disguised entities of slowed-down advertisement jingles for ridiculous products. If the album is indeed looked upon in such a way, the horrific front cover suddenly gets a new, sample-related meaning, as the mirror reveals the violently funny, undisclosed truth to the listener that he cannot grasp at first. Always question the mood you are about to perceive, as the creators of the original source material could have had a totally different implication in mind, which is now latently ridiculed on Replica without anyone‘s notice. Should the listener even care about the context of a work? I let you be the judge on this ancient, unsolved question and dive into the release right now, trying (and failing) to uncover some of its secrets.


Melancholic brightness and dark qualm are the antagonistic moods of Andro, the opening track. Slightly reminiscent to Boards Of Canada‘s The Beach At Redpoint, the bright synths grow stronger and defeat the darker strings in the end. A deliciously bright square lead functions as a nostalgic device next to high-pitched seagull-like cries, probably made with an electric guitar or modulated with a synth. Loops of muffled advertising voices are thrown into the mix. A strong and positive first track due to its growing brightness. Power Of Persuasion changes the mood and presents a panopticon of short piano loops accompanied by a cheesy yet powerful trumpet straight out of a film noir. Filters of slight crackles and pink noise are sometimes laid over the loops, intensifying the vintage feeling and the curious mood. Sleep Dealer is the first track that admits to Lopatin‘s strategy of using chopped-up samples. What starts as a playful track due to a a microloop of a high-note piano, gets a bit heavier later on, especially the angelic but brief synth washes are attractive. The track‘s signature sample is that of an exhaling man whose intense exhalation is pitched up and down, thus sounding either male or female, an effect remarkably similar to Thomas Fehlmann‘s remix of Charles Wilp‘s Charlie‘s Angels theme where the supposed angels exhale in a resemblant way and the repeated pitch factors evoke a sexiness that has probably never existed in the original source. The following Remember is the vault-like Ambient tune on Replica with a layer of dark synth strings and added tranquilizing synth washes. Sudden synth hits and a repeated one-second voice loop are lively elements that underline yet again the friction between brightness and darkness, between whose interplay the song is oscillating all the time. The title-giving Replica features a classic piano, static noises and counteracting reverberated synth pads that disturb the portato notes with their high energy.


The second half of the album is the most interesting one and stylistically more varied. On Nassau, a loop of seeming out-of-tune house pianos works against a variety of strange percussive fragments such as human beatboxes, crackling noises and a rhythm that was possibly created with hits and swipes on a jeans. The experiment is successful, if only for the reason that the piano loop remains stuck in one‘s head hours later. Haunting but brilliant. Submersible is a dark favorite of mine and builds a wasteland of the atomic age with omnipresent wind forces, deep synth washes and permeating strings that evoke a powerful feeling of loneliness and despair. Stylistically similar to Pop by Gas or Mindlook by Jonson, this is the kind of cinematic Ambient music that doesn‘t tuck you in, but in fact depresses you and works heavily on your mind. A dark stormer for sure. Another huge favorite of mine is Up, which phonetically resembles the male voice sample used throughout this piece. It is loaded with an ethereally bright single-note string, a dominant mid-tone rhythm, gorgeous piano notes and contrabass strings. This is an energetic piece that in a weirdly twisted way pleases both Ambient fans and workout fanatics. The best piece on Replica to my mind and one you should pre-listen to in any event. Child Soldier is one of these ironic pieces where the track title leads you into a certain direction which is then undermined by the song, though every sample on this song has to do with children: Samples of a children‘s choir, fragmented children‘s voices that resemble a breakbeat and the occasional ha sample. Beautiful synth washes add calmness while occasional babbles boost the hectic of the song, which is Ambient by nature, but tends more to an experimental breakbeat setup. Explain is the final track and brings back the fake seagull cries and the fantastic bright synths of the first track Andro. Everything is glowing and shimmering in this track, and the added rhythm with beautiful piano hooks make this the brightest tune – or better still, fanfare – featured on Replica. Since all positive adjectives have been mentioned time and again in this review, let‘s just say that this song is a super closer.


Stylistically varied albums cannot, as a whole, please anyone but die-hard fans of the respective artist. The all the more surprising exception is Replica by Oneohtrix Point Never, at least to my ears, as there isn‘t one dud to be found. The concept of adding advertisements and voices to a record while rendering them beyond recognition is nothing new, as it has been done lots of times from the late 80‘s onwards. But the beauty and intensity of the samples‘ interplay with the gorgeous synths structures and ideas blows my mind. A few of the tracks have already gotten essentials for me, especially the latter half of the album, which is the better one in my opinion: it succeeds both in style, melodies, ideas and bliss. Daniel Lopatin‘s album is wholeheartedly recommended to Ambient listeners who are fond of mellow sound carpets that are in constant dialogue with static noise, glistening synth pads and occasional beats, although there is no bassdrum in the classical sense to be found – and this makes things even more intriguing.


Further reading:

The Twitter account of Oneohtrix Point Never is @0PN.


Ambient Review 022: Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica (2011). Originally published on Jan. 11, 2012 at