Agitated Atmosphere: Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Oneohtrix Point Never.

The crunch, the static, the wails, the din — all of it signals a new consciousness rising from within Daniel Lopatin. The destruction of synth as done by one of its modern masters. Is Returnal the black hole from which futuristic noise will never return or is it the cosmic ch’i of galactic invention? The big bang-inspired chaos of “Nil Admirari” that begins the latest from the busy-handed Lopatin (under his oft-used Oneohtrix Point Never pseudonym) is a frenzy of unidentifiable sound that erodes past 0PN goodwill before giving way to a new 0PN.

Returnal‘s title would seem to indicate a spiritual rediscovery of the past yet Lopatin’s latest — released via Editions Mego — has its eyes firmly fixated on a distant future of which we are not privy. The ambient hope of “Stress Waves” and “Where Does the Time Go” linking a soon-to-be found happiness with the cold, harsh realities of “Pelham Island Road” and “Preyouandi,” a strange and mystical shift in the Oneohtrix aesthetic that could not be a more welcomed retreat from the past. 0PN once embraced the silence of space but Returnal embraces the noise aimed at drowning out meditative thought. It’s a busy album but beneath its complex canopy, the heart of Lopatin’s past releases remains true. The large splatters of twisted sound effects do little to bury the melodic synth that has long been the trademark of 0PN. Returnal proves to be a bridge as most transitional (and hard to peg) albums tend to be, but it is a breathtaking view of icy waters, black skies, and swarming mutations. Soak up the scenery because it’s bound to be rummaged for spare parts the next time Lopatin turns idea into sound.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist who also runs the webzine, Electronic Voice Phenomenon. He writes the Monday News Mash-Up for the KEXP Blog. You may follow him on Twitter.

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