It’s not often that I can’t think of the words to describe an album. I can usually scrounge up enough vernacular to create a pretty good idea of what’s in between the grooves. But with Daniel Lopatin, aka Oneohtrix Point Never, and his newest album Garden of Delete, it can be quite perplexing to paint a clear picture of what he’s doing this time around. Going back to the first OPN records, it was a lot of drone and space-y ambient textures. Betrayed In The Octagon, Russian Mind, and Zones Without People had the vibe of early Tangerine Dream and Vangelis, but with a darker view of the outside world. Replica made brilliant use of loops which made for a whole new vibe, while R Plus Seven felt haunted and alone. A soundtrack to a content dream that turns into a nightmare, only to head back into the light towards the end.
Oneohtrix Point Never toured with Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden last year, which prompted Daniel Lopatin to change the scope of his music. He wanted to create something more modern; something more rock-influenced. The result is Garden of Delete, a mix of distorted vocals, dancier beats, and industrial muscle that is both the weirdest album by OPN, and one of the best.
So there was a story about how this album was a result of the influence of an extraterrestrial named Ezra that came into contact with Lopatin. The album does indeed have somewhat of a story regarding this tale, and there’s even a song called “Ezra”, but I’m not going to get into that. I’m just going to talk about the songs themselves. “Intro” is a distorted voice(presumably the alien in question) which leads into “Ezra”, a loop-filled track that feels like snippets of memories sewn together with Lopatin’s musical storytelling. The song picks up in the middle section like some manic techno freakout before the bottom drops out. “Sticky Drama” feels like OPNs attempt at a pop hit. It contains big bombastic swaths of synth you might hear on some big radio hit, as well as heavily effected vocals that could be some pop diva disguised as a robot. Pretty soon though the song descends into some hellish, industrial explosion, like Skinny Puppy devouring Aphex Twin in an attempt to digest its essence. There may be moments of modern pop extravagance here, but make no mistake this is an Oneohtrix Point Never record.
“SDFK” is a quiet interlude that reminds one of earlier OPN records, and it takes us into the album’s centerpiece “Mutant Standard”. An eight minute ride into deep space and some dark subconscious, the NIN influence is noticeable but it never feels like Lopatin is aping Mr. Reznor. Elements of ambient soundscapes and driving techno, the song is carried along by a percussive center that allows for strange aural delights to come in and out of the mix, racing from left to right. “Mutant Standard” feels very much alive and relevant. All of those artists attempting to do what Daniel Lopatin does need to sit down and listen to this song and go back to the drawing board. “Child of Rage” is another track that showcases the elegance Lopatin brings to electronic and synth music that may sometimes gets lost in the weird. It’s like Weather Report and Cluster were enveloped into an old IBM motherboard. “I Bite Through It” sounds like Nitzer Ebb and New Order through metal shavings and bad dreams, while Stanley Jordan plays over the mania. “Freaky Eyes”, “Lift”, and “No Good” take the album to it’s eventual end, with “No Good” being the reserved, quiet piece this album needs to end on.
Garden of Delete never wavers from the journey it starts at the beginning. It seems Daniel Lopatin isn’t resting on his laurels by sticking to the same formula. What this album proves is that he is as ever-changing and as vital as the music he creates as Oneohtrix Point Never. Not sure how he can top this album, but I’m happy to listen and see if he can.