Reliquary House: Nate Boyce and Oneohtrix Point Never

I’ve been following the career of Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never for a few years, ever since he released the triple LP Rifts back in 2009, a collection previously release  EPs, compilation tracks, and other limited edition work.  Initially, Oneohtrix Point Never’s sound was heavily  based on synthesizer arpeggios and spectral detuned drones—very appealing stuff for fans of German kosmische artists like Popal Vuh, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze.

Lopatin could have continued churning music like that forever and have kept his fans happy, but something more interesting happened. The definitive break from his old sound came with album Replica in 2011. Synthesizers remained present in the mix, but in a diminished role. Vocal samples, often edited and distorted beyond recognition, became the basis the album’s most effective moments. The music still retained the hazy textures of Lopatin’s early work, but the chaotic structures and harsh tones put it at a far distance from most ambient music.

R Plus 7, Lopatin’s newest album, marks an even more radical change in style. Bright digital tones predominate. Digital piano and choral pads lend a mood of Clinton-era nostalgia, Window’s 95 start-up music and the soundtrack to Donkey Kong Country. Lopatin fashions these rather banal ingredients into something far stranger and more compelling than the slick, corporatist digital-utopianism with which this type of music is associated.

Nowadays, what I find most compelling about Lopatin’s work is not his music per se, though I like R Plus 7 quite a bit, but rather it is his willingness to collaborate across disciplines. When I saw him on tour following the release of Replica, he was accompanied by disorienting and beautiful projections by the video artist Nate Boyce. Like Lopatin, Boyce uses the artificiality,  the synthetic texture of digital media as a creative departure point.  His 3D animations are “wrong” in the conventional sense that they do not form a coherent, realistic environment, but that is the point. They show the strangeness and instability lurking behind a supposedly frictionless digital reality.

Leopold Bloom Contemplates the Universe

723px-Orion_constellation_Hevelius

With what meditations did Bloom accompany his demonstration to his companion of various constellation?
Meditations of evolution increasingly vaster : of the moon invisible in incipient lunation, approaching perigree : of the infinite lattiginous scintillating uncondensed milky way, discernable by daylight by an observer placed at the lower end of a cylindrical vertical shaft 5000 ft deep sunk from the surface towards the center of the earth : of Sirius (alpha in Canis Major) 10 lightyears (57,000,000,000,000 miles) distant and in volume 900 times the dimension of our planet : of Arcturus : of the precession of the equinoxes : of Orion with belt and sextuple sun theta and nebula in which 100 of our solar systems could be contained : of moribund and of nascent new stars such as Nova in 1901 : of our system plunging towards the constellation of Hercules : of the parallax or parallactic drift of socalled fixed stars, in reality evermoving from immeasurably remote eons to infinitely remote futures in comparison with which the years, threescore  and ten, of allotted human life formed a parenthesis of infinitesimal brevity.

From Ulysses by James Joyce

Lou Reed in Memorium

There was a sense of the inevitable with Lou Reed’s passing on October 27th, Sunday morning,  which along with being the day of his death, was the title of the lead track off The Velvet Underground &Nico. That album, along with its follow-up White Light/White Heat, provided the soundtrack my years as a teenage malcontent in suburban Washington State. For all the hirsute posturing of Staind, Slipknot, Rob Zombie and dozens of other nu-metal mediocrities popular at the time, there was nothing on modern rock radio as transgressive as the fourteen minute auditory middle finger t known as is “Sister Ray,” and nothing as transportive either.

Between classes, my high school friends and I would hang out in a disused corridor between the Pottery and Photography classrooms, pile together on a filthy old sofa, and listen to music, mostly scuffed CDRs of obscure oldies, ’77 era punk rock bands, Northwest indie rock—really any unpopular rock based music, to keep the jocks at bay and to provide accompaniment to whatever hopelessly naïve art project we were working on at the time. And it was the Velvets that I remember being played the most. Just hearing “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” was enough to make us feel a part that lost world of dark glamour of the Factory and the Lower East Side circa 1967—an absurd dream, to be sure, but irresistible at a time when we were desperate for some creative identity, one that would help us navigate out of adolescence, more of a trek up a glacier in a whirlwind than any all night bohemian cocktail party.

Sex, drugs, and death, of course, weren’t the only things Lou Reed was about, not that I cared at time. Excepting Metal Machine Music, I didn’t bother with his solo albums and felt ambivalent about the last two Velvet Underground albums. Years went by before I had the maturity and imagination to feel the sweetness and candor in a song like “Pale Blue Eyes” or understand that an army of novelists could deforest whole swaths of Canada before they were able create stories that rank with “Candy Says” and “Oh Sweet Nothing!”

I won’t pretend expertise regarding Lou Reed’s latter day career. The first few solo albums, along with his work in the Velvets, have always been enough for me. But if he had recorded nothing after Loaded, Reed’s place in musical posterity would be assured. Unlike the Rolling Stones and Beatles, his work still feels contemporary, and not for the risqué subject matter or avant-garde connections, but because the music is charged with brilliant contrasts, unspeakably tender one moment and then uncontrollably wild in the next, like the life that we imagine for ourselves when we are young and filled with cynical innocence.