Tuesday, 20 December 2011
Review: Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica
My first thoughts upon listening to Replica: wow, Oneohtrix has really moved forward in the last year. I liked his acclaimed previous album Returnal, especially the wall of ambient hatred that was Nil Admirari, if only because it was such a ballsy way to open an otherwise very pleasant record. There's a track that instantly prevents you from ever putting this CD on as soft, compliant background music, a track that forces you to actually pay attention to ambient music. Smart stuff. Replica, however, is miles ahead. It's practically a paradigm shift.
I actually saw Oneohtrix play live quite recently. I spent the entire gig sat on the floor, heavily sleep deprived, slipping in and out of consciousness and trapped in hypnogogia - that state just before sleep where dream logic begins to overtake and the world around you becomes blissfully surreal. It's just about the closest you can get to being on drugs without having to pay for them or come down from them, in other words. It sounded fucking awesome, as well, and amidst these waves of dreamstate I was aware that Oneohtrix was sounding a good deal more epic in the flesh than I remember him being on record. I guess it's because he was playing the material from this album, which is bigger and bolder in every way than what has come before. How apposite that there's a track on here called Sleep Dealer, which sounds like Oneohtrix branching out into FlyLo/Actress territory while retaining his signature blurry ambience.
Returnal was sort-of droney lo-fi ambient stuff with a lot of samples recorded from deliberately shitty sound sources, like non-HD Youtube clips. Replica is way more developed, with full-blown songs and shit. Totally ambient songs with no lyrics and only heavily processed vocal loops, but songs nonetheless, tracks with passages and phrases and stuff, rather than endless loopage. You can play any track on Returnal at any random point and it all basically sounds the same - big walls of dreamy retro synth pads. The tracks on Replica all sound very different - some tracks have skittery beats, some have pianos, some have big choral pads, some have chopped up vocal fragments. They're all pretty incredible as well. I'm seriously impressed by this. I don't know what he's been up to in the past 12 months, but not only has he expanded his sound far more than most artists could do in a single year, he's improved immeasurably. And now matter how varied the tracks are, they still have a characteristic Oneohtrix sound, courtesy of his distinctive production methods and sound design. The best comparison I can make is to Laurel Halo, who has also made similarly impressive expansions to her sound this year. Replica is very different to her work, but at the same time I think they'd go together very well in some experimental DJ set.
Overall, I'm pretty cynical of the fact that all End Of Year lists have the same 10-15 electronic albums on them, even though there's obviously a huge variety of (often quite similar) stuff out there that's just as good and just doesn't get covered. At times it looks very obvious that marketing and hype pushes certain records and not enough journalists bother to search for other material to bring to people's attention. Some things, of course, are fully deserving of the hype and this is unquestionably one of them. Replica will probably go down as one of the classic electronic albums of 2011, and I for one welcome our new gloriously hallucinatory ambient overlord.
Genre: Hypnogogic ambient
Stupid Arbitrary Rating: 9/10