Oneohtrix Point Never - Garden of Delete

by Justin Pearson Rating:8 Release Date:2015-11-13

Daniel Lopatin has turned up the dial with Garden of Delete, his latest album as Oneohtrix Point Never. It's not only louder in both sound and scope but fuller, encompassing elements from previous work while adding new ones to create a frenetic world where energy seems to spring from everywhere, sometimes all at once. Even the cover art can attest to the chaos that it fronts. It called to mind a few things for me when I first looked at it. Is it based off an 80's-era video game graphic (I'm thinking the weapon of choice of Elec Man from Nintendo's Megaman)? A crudely rendered drawing of static electricity? Or could it just be the hurried scratching of someone who wants to erase something they've just put to paper, mimicking the album's title that refers to deletion?

Cover art aside, Garden Of Delete is a searching, frantic album, and apparently I'm not too far off with the video game imagery. Speaking to Dummy Magazine recently, Lopatin responded to an interviewer with regard to the environment of exploration inherent in video games: "Every nook and cranny. I remember getting like that with Metroid, getting so excited that I was figuring it out, [going to] places where you can’t really do anything, or places where you get stuck – these kind of impasses that fuck you up. It’s like… I dunno, it’s the best. It gives you chills." 

Chills indeed. This excitement of discovery is all over Garden of Delete, making you feel like a video game character yourself as you listen. The songs are not content, but rather in an awakening state and ready to embark on a neverending expedition. Take album centerpiece 'Mutant Standard' for example. It opens with a strobing, caffeinated bass that leads to various vocal samples, the most unsettling being "This is not my house." At around the 3:00 mark is where it really begins to wake up, lifting its head for a look around. It's a wild beast of a song, unpredictable and unfamiliar in that nightmarish way of falling asleep in one place and waking up in another.

'Ezra' pulses like some forgotten radio transmission or TV channel being surfed late at night. The chunks of vocals throughout give it a skipping record quality, along with what sounds like an occasional upright bass.

'Sticky Drama' is full of retro-sounding computer glitches and melodic snippets that seem to pull from breakdance or early R&B music. It sounds like the radio-happy comfort of pop music processed through an 80's time machine and delivered to an uncertain, scary future. Considering his past material that employed various sampled sounds/ephemera from the 80s this track doesn't come as too much of a surprise. What's surprising is how good it is.

'Child of Rage' and 'I Bite Through It' are both primal, and not just in name alone. The former uses psychoanalysis to address the song's theme of aggression: "Why is your brother afraid of you?" asks a doctor's voice. "Cause I hurt him so much" replies the child the song is concerned with. Patterned swirls of various synth sounds represent its emotional core. The latter track has teeth that you can almost see as it rips and tears through fibrous sound molecules, not unlike the literal act of eating. There's a visceral, jaw-clenching intensity that gives the song its delicious, meat-ripping strength.

'Freaky Eyes' has a jarring effect. Just when you think its forward, creeping organ is going in one direction it shifts and the melody falls apart, becoming something completely different with the modulated vocals that seem to come from some underwater cave near the end of the song.

Lopatin is adept at rescuing sounds from obsolescence and giving them new life. Garden of Delete is especially vocal heavy, unlike earlier stuff. What's remarkable about him as an artist is that he's constantly evolving, each album different in tone and texture. The title suggests something reductive, yet it's clearly not. Who really knows what the acronym G.o.D. is alluding to? Perhaps with the shifting nature of the songs Lopatin is simply showing himself to be the supreme creator amid the album's entropy. There's no solid, underlying scheme to anchor the music here, just deconstruction. It's the sound of him revelling in putting it back together how he sees fit, and he has the final say.

In the crowded landscape of sample-heavy electronic musicians working today, Lopatin stands out as an original, not adhering to a strict formula or following trends. His music as Oneohtrix Point Never exists on its own in a sphere that's untouchable. Although Garden of Delete is markedly different from the rest of his catalogue, it still has many of the sylistic hallmarks that are uniquely his own.

By putting to record the primal rawness of these songs, perhaps he's essentially removing or "deleting" them from a former consciousness that took shape during the creative process and this is what they look like once they've been "erased" so to speak. The album feels constantly happening, alive. It's not too hard to imagine Lopatin himself as a video game character on a one-man mission to conquer a world with end-level, hostile bosses. He may not actually be Megaman with a bolt of electricity spraying forth from his hand, but it's abundantly clear he's the master of this fertile, garden-domain.

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