Daniel Lopatin began releasing music a decade ago as Oneohtrix Point Never, a name he derived from Boston soft-rock station, Magic 106.7. Lopatin has created music that always existed on the far fringes of pop. His sound can’t be pegged as synth pop, EDM, ambient, hip-hop or any other easily labeled genre. Instead, he pulls from a broad array of genres, samples and sources. Like Frankenstein’s monster, Lopatin stitches together a beautiful monstrosity like nothing else in music right now.
Recently, Lopatin has been calling his approach to creating music “compressionism,” a manifesto of sorts. In an interview with the New York Times, he explains, “It’s dealing with the overload of knowing about too much stuff, about being exposed to too many historical inputs, and then turning it into some kind of coherent jumble. It’s still a jumble, but it’s a kind of coherency of drawing connections between things.” In a world of endless noise, Lopatin feels that creating music in only one style would be living a lie. “The thing that I’ve always been a little bit jealous of is a complete, a total giving to one form, like a genre, and just a mastery of it,” he said. “My thing is very different. It’s a complete embrace of something, but I’ve never been able to say, ‘I believe in this.’ The only thing I believe in is that I’m in this perpetual state of disbelief.”
The harpsichord is the first noticeable element in Age Of, gothic and elegant, an instrument that perfectly represents the album it introduces. The album is filled with melancholy for a beautiful, quiet embrace of discomfort. Age Of is full of familiar sounds that turn sinister, and moments of contemplation tinged with a sense of doom. In the opening title track, a bassline is laced with a haunting sample, drifting apart until they clash together as these graceful sounds become something frightening.
“Babylon” sounds like a wailing country tune processed through an old computer. According to Lopatin, the song is about living in New York, with lyrics that come across as a mournful love song: “It’s not that I don’t get it / I really think I do / We wanted it to be different / But that’s not happening anytime soon.” “The Station,” originally written as a demo for a collaboration with Usher, is an R&B ballad of isolation and paranoia filled with white noise, with lyrics like “I wanna see inside the alien / I wanna feel your organs inside out.” The track “Warning” only increases that uneasy feeling, with a breathless whispering voice and a with a choppy pulse.
This album is clean-cut, something new for an OPN album. Lopatin creates a sense of space where you can get a feel for what he’s communicating through the gaps. These serene moments of minimal notes will be destroyed by a gush of digital noise, but Lopatin flexes his expertise in mixing through this. What occurs is a beautiful mess, finely tuned to take the listener into another world. Age Of is encapsulating, strange and beautiful. It is dystopian, trapped inside a place that resonates in the current state of affairs for our planet. It reflects an unsettling not-too-distant future of a world in which our biggest fears do come true. Lopatin explores fears of modern society with post-nuclear wastelands and late capitalism, but also a deeply personal struggle with isolation and anxiety. As uncomfortable as Age Of is, it’s also one of Lopatin’s most accessible works yet, not to mention one of his best.