There's Nobody Here: The Intangible Genius Of Oneohtrix Point Never
Image Credit Daniel Lopatin
There is a place, not a physical place, but a place nonetheless, where we have conversations, consume content, do our shopping, get our kicks, and live our lives. All as weightless as The Cloud, this vaporous mist that connects us all. We form memories in this timeless, spaceless, weightless void- one that has its own refracted form constantly being altered by its own ever-changing self-perception, an image on the water sometimes serene, most of the time terrifying, screaming. Reflections upon reflections. The Internet.
Since the late ’90s and the outset of the 21st Century, it’s played a constantly evolving role in the distribution and consumption of music. It may be tough to imagine now in this age of homogenized, corporate streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music and soulless mega-forums like Reddit. But at one point, music on The Internet was synonymous with sketchy Limewire downloads and a million weird little forums and blogs to share, discuss, and develop tastes and culture with like-minded weirdos. This infinite, intangible playground of scattered cultural artifacts all pointing toward something new, what it is specifically was, of course, difficult to define. But that’s the past. In 2020, it seems that contemporary music is inseparable from the cultural impact that The Internet’s rise has left on all of us.
I’d like to highlight an artist, who in my view, managed to predict, influence, and innovate nearly every nascent trend that this young century has seen so far, not only musically speaking, but from an aesthetic and cultural point of view as well.
Daniel Lopatin, otherwise referred to as Oneohtrix Point Never has been making music since the mid-2000s. I’m not gonna give you a whole career retrospective on the guy, but his work ranges from ambient hypnagogic noise to avant-garde electronic. He’s also one of the founding fathers of the Vaporwave genre, arguably one of the most important in defining the tastes and aesthetics of Generation Z and younger Millennials. This cannot be overstated. The styling and aesthetics of Cloud Rap, Future Funk, and most street fashion of the 2010s can trace their heritage to Vaporwave. His 2009 CD-R, Memory Vague almost looks like a blueprint for the genre today. The use of chopped up, slowed down jingles from the 80s overlaid with grainy, fuzzy commercials and aqueous pixelated dreamscapes- it all evokes this sense of a place that simultaneously never existed and hyper-existed in the collective consciousness of millions. A dream you don’t remember waking up from. Vaporwave.
Really, his work is quite diverse, but also idiosyncratic. You can always tell you’re listening to an OPN track. You’re not sure how you know, since it all sounds so different, so otherworldly, but I’m a firm believer that there’s a distinct sonic signature that defines his work. There’s no artist, in my view, who has been able to elucidate this sense of nostalgic placelessness better than Daniel Lopatin.
Chances are, you already know OPN’s music, even if you don’t know that you know it. For the film buffs who’re reading this, the name may even ring a bell. Recently, he’s found renown scoring the films of the Safdie Brothers. If your last memory of being inside of a movie theater is one of anxiety, you can probably thank Lopatin’s work on the Uncut Gems soundtrack for that. As for their other feature-length film, Good Time, he collaborated with Iggy Pop to create the haunting closing track for that film “The Pure and the Damned.” Interestingly, for both films, he really seems to lean into intense, pulsating synths. The best way to describe it is like being transformed into the cardiovascular systems of these movie’s main characters. While we’re on the subject of collaborations, it’s worth mentioning that on his most recent, non-soundtrack album Age Of, he collaborated with the likes of Grammy Award winner James Blake. He also helped produce FKA Twigs’ stellar 2019 album, Magdalene.
So that’s Oneohtrix Point Never. Check him out. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter. To some extent, just by virtue of reading this blog post and being online, you already have. Because it’s not a solid space we inhabit, but a sea of images and ideas, imprinting upon you without your conscious recognition. And when you try to grasp at them, they’re gone. To be honest, they were never really there in the first place.