On the limitlessly pleasing “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never”, Daniel Lopatin twists left on his own internal radio dial and channel-hops through highlights of his career to date: from synth drift to scrambled sound collages to a kind of yearning adult contemporary that no-one else can pull off.
If there’s one aspect that unifies this stylistically varied and guest-speckled album, it’s the ongoing tour through Lopatin lore. The clue is right there in the title for starters.
Oneohtrix Point Never’s rise to the top of contemporary electronic music has made what is a fairly quirky artist moniker seem comfortably lived-in (so much so that Lopatin’s Korn-riffing bootleg 0PN merch didn’t make anyone blink). The genesis of his name got a tad lost along the way. It comes from Boston’s long-running AOR station Magic 106.7, which the young Lopatin would tune into while growing up in the city’s suburbs. Now say the station name out loud to yourself. There you have the skeleton key to unlock the album’s internal logic.
That’s far from the only subtle reinforcement found on “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never”. Over the past five years, it seems as if each new studio album from Lopatin is a reaction to what came before it. The static-shocked shredding found on 2015’s “Garden Of Delete” was a rebellion against the placid nostalgia of his beloved R series – “Rifts”, “Returnal”, “Replica” and “R Plus Seven”. 2018’s “Age Of” replaced the ring-modulated guitars with baroque instrumentation and ultra-smooth surfaces.
By contrast, “Magic...” feels like an attempt to corral all 0PN modes of old. Through the conceit of suites and flicking through FM waves, Lopatin updates his own sound world in canny ways. The mall-punk-on-downers of ‘I Don’t Love Me Anymore’ finds “Garden of Delete”’s pugnacious teen maturing into a languorous adolescent. For several minutes, ‘The Whether Channel’ throws back to the R Series’ drifting dopamine clouds, before sliding into a lilting rap from NOLANBEROLLIN about blue skies and zooming past dissenters (presumably while locked into Magic 106.7). The gigantic gated drums on ‘Lost But Never Alone’ are pure Lopatin & Ford.
The big change on “Magic…” comes in the form of special guests. A string of high-profile scores for the films “Good Time” and “Uncut Gems” has afforded Lopatin the ability to switch on Hollywood lights when he pleases. Though initially de-emphasised in the run-up to release so as not to overpower the concept, Caroline Polachek and Abel Tesfaye are instantly recognizable on the yearning anthems ‘Long Road Home’ and ‘No Nightmares’. The latter is an especial showstopper – full-on, no-concessions, lighters-up arena energy.
Once you’re under the spell of “Magic Oneohtrix Point Never”, these tonal shifts feel oddly becalming: a stream of half-heard gibberish, mulched beats and skyscraping ballads from yesteryear, all floating past like filaments in your peripheral. On his ninth studio LP we find Daniel Lopatin comfortable, happy to burnish his own legacy – a moment of consolidation rather than another leap forward; one of this century’s premier electronic musicians stopping to smell the roses, as a friendly radio flickers gently in the background somewhere.