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Oneohtrix Point Never – 'Garden Of Delete' review

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On Daniel Lopatin’s last record as Oneohtrix Point Never, 2013’s R Plus Seven, he managed to squirrel away elegantly tuneful passages of electronica within a bramble of synthesised sonics, and in doing so created a record that felt more like an addictive treasure hunt with which the listener actively engaged, than something passively encountered. On Garden Of Delete, Lopatin repeats this trick, but even more jarringly: the opening Ezra interrupts its fizzes of electronics for the kind of darkly evocative guitar figure that DJ Shadow once made his calling card, before diving back into frenetic synth programming; equally, there’s an extraordinary moment midway through Freaky Eyes where the entire ambient throb is overcome by a snippet of balladeering yacht-rock – again, Lopatin lets the sample take over for several seconds, then plunges back into the tangle.

The effect is discombobulating, but also quite thrilling: the deliberate, almost virtuoso dischord prompts an auditory double take, even on repeated listening, and while it would be a stretch to describe anything on Garden Of Delete as welcoming, it’s certainly enough to force a level of engagement that’s frequently missing from other records cut from the same musical cloth.

Thankfully, however, Lopatin doesn’t overplay his hand, and plenty of Garden Of Delete comprises consistently knotty and complex electronica with no circus tricks, much of it just as satisfying. The album’s centrepiece, Mutant Standard, cycles through several frenetic movements that each build on the previous one’s harmonic structure until it resembles a distorted bastard of a trance record being played in the woods, at night, by whispering android witches. The inappropriately titled Child of Rage, too, is a rather beautifully romantic, almost schmalzy piece of super-melodic composition based around piano and guitar timbres and delicately decayed percussion, and – lest you think Lopatin’s gone soft – I Bite Through It features fearsome, stabbing barrages of avant garde noise for which the attraction lies less in its musical endeavour than in its brazen confrontation.

Much of the music that’s released within the broad genre of experimental electronica suffers from impenetrability due to a lack of human touch and an overly serious, studious approach. Thankfully, Lopatin appears to grasp this, and Garden Of Delete is a terrific example of a meaty, complex electronic album that employs just enough stylistic quirks to remind you that it’s made by man rather than machine. It bangs and clangs when it needs to, and its densest moments stand up to scrutiny. However, there’s levity too, and that’s Lopatin’s trump card: here’s a record with the nouse to present its smarts with a dash of humility.


8/10

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