Oneohtrix Point Never: Returnal
Editions Mego (2010)
Returnal lacks the sci fi weirdness of its predecessor Rifts, but makes up for that by playing out as a smoother journey into the unknown. You might put this cohesion down to Rifts being a compilation of limited edition tapes and CDRs, but those notions go out the window the moment opening track Nil Admirari gently releases itself into the phosphorescent Describing Bodies. Daniel Lopatin is in control of his sound.
The record opens like a standard Merzbow number; instant chaos and white noise that slowly reveals a masterfully balanced combination of droning keyboards, static, chopped up rhythms and random bleeps. Lopatin has thrown everything he has into the mix for this track, demanding your attention and proving himself other than a one trick pony, before winding down the noise into a tranquil synthesised drone.
As I said, what follows is far less cinematic than his previous stuff. – less cheesy, less dark, less B grade. On Returnal Lopatin’s world is dreamier and far more romantic. I think of bodies floating through water, rather than space. The sounds shimmer. The album’s title track even features vocals, albeit a stuttering chipmunk vibrato like Tyondi Braxton of Battles, that becomes yet another synthesised instrument in the Oneohtrix Point Never galaxy.
He bookends the record with Preyoundai, a spacious closer that situates a handful of notes amongst percussive clutter that occasionally spews up drum n’ bass breaks before fizzling into reverb and echo. It’s almost Autechre-ish and this newer side of Oneohtrix is what excites me. Preyoundai, and the album opener are fresh additions to the Noise oeuvre and I hope Lopatin continues to explore this territory further. Returnal might not be quite as exciting as Rifts but it’s still a lush listening experience. And cover art by Stephen O’Malley? Fuck yes.