The American-born son of musicians who immigrated from the former Soviet Union, Daniel Lopatin began to create, record and perform his form of electronic music while at Hampshire College – where he studied with Christoph Cox, a philosophy professor and author of works on experimental music, and Daniel Warner, a music professor and electronic-music composer. As the story goes, his primary instrument was an old Roland synthesizer his father had given him.
Lopatin first issued his textured, synthesized music under the name Dania Shapes. His debut recording as Oneohtrix Point Never was released in 2007: “Betrayed in the Octagonal” was a 35-minute collection that featured icy, amorphous collages and bittersweet pieces that teetered on the edge of joy. Three additional full-length albums and five EPs followed in short order. The recordings revealed an artist not so much groping toward a singular defining sound, but one whose approach to electronic music allowed for vast experimentation.
The year 2011 saw the arrival of “Replica,” which balanced ambient music with what is known as “plunderphonics,” a mid-‘80s term for the repurposing of existing sounds. Disorderly but thoroughly organized, “Replica” was a complete musical statement with its snatches of beauty, tension, intimacy, indifference and other conflicting emotions. And then came “R Plus Seven,” Lopatin’s masterwork as Oneohtrix Point Never.
“R Plus Seven” opened with an overture: “Boring Angel” was a majestic piece with a resounding organ and synthesized voices at its heart. Thus, it reinforced Oneohtrix Point Never as a project based on Lopatin’s musicality as well as his gift for methodical experimentation. “Americans,” which followed, was the album’s most ambitious piece. Referencing “Replica,” it leapt at the start and kept up a frenetic pace; then it suddenly shifted to disjointed, crackling sounds without forward energy; and then to a warm, lovely, cloud-like theme; and then back to a frenzied pace with horn-like figures and chimes. If “Boring Angel” was the overture of “R Plus Seven,” “Americans” was a declaration of the album’s vast possibilities.
Lopatin has been compared, not entirely accurately, to minimalists like Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Riley. Some “R Plus Seven” songs nod toward minimalism: “Inside Voices” with its recurring tones and jabbing chords; and “He She,” in which a synthesized reproduction of a banjo served to introduce a song that used snippets of sung phrases as melody and percussion. But minimalism was it not. Nor was it dance music. “Zebra” taunted with suggestion of a rhythmic pull-through, but Lopatin abandoned the conceit and replaced it with choral voices and percussive tones that sounded like they came from a West Africa balafon or muted tubular bells. A knotty synth line gave “Problem Areas” a chipper start, the composition melted into a wash of sustained notes; “Wait,” said a female voice – and then the bounce returned.
The album concluded with its two loveliest and most accessible tracks: “Still Life,” with its persistent chorus of synthesized voices that vanished and returned amid sweeping orchestral colors; and “Chrome Country,” a melancholy ballad enriched by children’s voices, languorous lines that curled together in harmony and the assertive power of an organ that connected the closing track with the album opener – a tactic that encouraged the listener to go back to the beginning and savor its mysteries again.
“R Plus Seven” was well received by those who follow electronic music and away-from-the-mainstream rock. Lopatin has since moved his music into other arenas. Along with Brian Reitzell, he scored Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring,” the 2015 Australian thriller “Partisan,” and performed live, at the Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics in Manchester, U.K., a new original score to the anime film, “Magnetic Rose.” He’s collaborated with many visual artists, released two EPs of commissioned pieces and opened for Nine Inch Nails on tour. Thus, with his body of work, most notably “R Plus Seven,” Lopatin as Oneohtrix Point Never brought his pensive if challenging electronic music to a variety of audiences that may find a surprisingly level of satisfaction within.