Oneohtrix Point Never - Garden of Delete
The world is a pretty fucked up place right now. You don’t need me to tell you that though – just turn on the news. The television, on any given day, its purpose seems to be to make you think today is even more fucked up than yesterday, that each day everything is becoming darker, more desolate. Then there’s a feature on a woman who owns a lot of dogs. You feel happy for a while.
Look back on your own life for a second, as Daniel Lopatin does on his 8th studio album Garden of Delete. You probably didn’t own a lot of dogs but your memories are filled with moments of hyberbolic joy and triumph. Deeper down the rabbit hole, though, things get a little bit harder to swallow. As a coping mechanism, we suppress our bad memories. It’s like a pressure cooker in there – the lid threatening to blow off any moment. Garden of Delete is fascinated with the digging up of these memories, for better or worse, and twisting them into a melee of sonic manipulation. Fictionally, Lopatin teams up with Ezra, an adolescent alien, for the performance of the record – a metaphor for the combination of a human present and an alien and somewhat unreliable past. Memory, after all, is a flawed system – at best an attempt to archive random information to create a biased view of our own life. Sometimes we are strangers in even our own memories – characters in a play which doesn’t feel like it ever happened, the emotions we feel now merely an afterimage of those we felt then; at once real and unreal.
This framework is what makes Garden of Delete the best Oneohtrix Point Never album before a single note is even played. Unlike his previous work, GoD [even the title is provocative to us journalists] is frighteningly human throughout and all the more unsettling for it. Where voices were once a melodic and rhythmic component, now they fulfil this role as well as providing a narrative and even identifiable dialogue which drives the story we’ve always been so keen to apply to a Oneohtrix album ourselves. As much as I love abstract art, the moments in which Lopatin extends a hand to us as listener with real melodies, hooks and speech help transcend the record from a cold, inquisitive puzzle to a rich, philosophical landscape all its own. I’d also argue that this is the first Oneohtrix record that’s actually comparable to other records, though to call it derivative would be misleading in every sense of the word. There’s brief flashes of rousing Nine Inch Nails vitriol (Lopatin opened for the band on tour last year as a replacement for Death Grips), Burial-esque vocal warping and silent bridges, the otherworldliness of XMAS EVET10 (Aphex Twin) and even a glimpse of modern EDM. The key to all this, and the point – of course – is that this is a Oneohtrix Point Never record through and through; it’s just not trying as hard to be one. People and their art are, by nature, influenced by a lot of different things and it’s Daniel’s acceptance to let these influences finally permeate through his music which makes GoD a wonderful paradox of cultural pastiche vs. individuality.
Musically, this thing is a monster; it’s everything and nothing all at once. Lopatin is a master at charging his silences with true, musical power but never has he done it better than here. The awkward breaks in his aural phrases are booming loud in their negative space, death pits underneath houses of happy families. I couldn’t help cracking a smile just moments into second track Ezra when a short silence tricked me into thinking my record player had broken. I quickly remembered the audacity of the man whose music I was listening to. You have to leave all expectations at the door; that’s the first (and only) rule of OPN. Of the actual sounded elements on this album (and there are a lot), be prepared to be placed inside a star at the brink of detonation. I’m still digesting this album after countless listens and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. At this point, I know the size and shape of each song but am still mystified as to its content. Certain moments make me laugh, others hit ‘that’ musical spot and give me chills, some make me feel physically sick to the pit of my stomach.
Garden of Delete is a scrap-brain zone for a generation of disenfranchised, confused and technologically adept twenty-somethings who hurtle into challenges, fucking the consequences as they go, and spend their quiet moments alone reflecting back on why things happened the way they did. It’s an album for fans of challenging music, film and art. Most of all, this record is a pathway into anything we’ve ever thrown into our real-life recycle bins, away from the albums of jpegs of better days, and the googles and the photoshops we revisit every day out of habit. Garden of Delete is a fantastic electronic album – a fucking superb enigma.
Words: Ben Armstrong