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Oneohtrix Point Never - R Plus Seven

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Artist: Oneohtrix Point Never

Album: R Plus Seven

Label: Warp

Review date: Oct. 1, 2013

Daniel Lopatin’s work as Oneohtrix Point Never initially made waves for its unabashed embrace of the softer sounds of new age and what was formerly considered cheesy synth schmaltz. Whether it was a musician staying true to the unhip sounds that inspired him, or an astute move made a few steps ahead of the inevitable wave of stylistic resurgence, Lopatin was onto something. Time passes, though, and his little corner of the musical universe has enough company these days that much of the material on the 2009 retrospective Rifts sounds pretty ordinary in 2013. Lopatin hasn’t stayed put, and the increased use of samples and glitchy unpredictability that Oneohtrix Point Never began to explore in earnest on Replica continue to be at the music’s forefront, making his newest album, R Plus Seven, a more uneven affair across 44 minutes than Rifts was spanning three whole albums.

It’s not hard to see why Lopatin was becoming bored with the music he was making, and R Plus Seven certainly represents a more action-based and dynamic approach than Oneohtrix Point Never’s earlier offerings. But while Lopatin is more stimulated by his creative process, his music now has a tendency to be overworked and fussy. On R Plus Seven, Lopatin often sounds like an artist trying to confound himself, not allowing ideas to evolve fully before scuttling them for something new, and crowding the tracks with so many different ingredients that sustained coherency is rare. If Lopatin is interested in clashing sonic qualities or unexpected intermingling of sounds, there are more effective ways to do it. So often, the samples that pepper that album seem inexplicably edited and placed, doing nothing for the music but adding unnecessary bustle. My frustration with R Plus Seven isn’t simply that the music won’t sit still. The album’s best track, “Zebra,” begins with a stuttering rhythm that sounds right at home in the Warp catalog, and goes off in different directions before circling back around to the place where it began, but there’s a sense of direction throughout. The same can’t be said for “Americans,” which stirs together a fickle potpourri that often sounds like an experiment in chance operations sourced from an old Deep Forest cassette.

In his attempts to keep things interesting, Lopatin can’t seem get out of his own way. Despite some good ideas and intriguing moments, tracks like “Inside World” feel unsatisfyingly aimless. Whatever internal logic they have isn’t evident to the listener, making them salon-style curiosities in which the attraction is simply the discordant nature of each digital menagerie that Lopatin’s jammed together. Save for a handful of generally straightforward compositions, R Plus Seven wears its inscrutability like a badge. I can understand why Lopatin wanted to change things up, but this feels like an overcorrection to me.

By Adam Strohm

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