Oneohtrix Point Never: the warped genius behind Uncut Gems’ chilling score | Electronic music


IIt was a particular 2020 for many of us, but Daniel Lopatin’s was stranger than most. In January, the warped electronics he makes under his pseudonym Oneohtrix Point Never soundtracked a hit Netflix film, Adam Sandler’s thriller Uncut Gems. On March 8, he got a taste of prime time life, playing a song he wrote with Weeknd on Saturday Night Live. Daniel Craig introduced them, a few weeks before the release of the new Bond movie. “I was shitting bricks if I may be totally honest,” says Daniel a little less famous.

Fifteen days later, Covid-19 blocked New York. Locked in his apartment, his studio out of bounds, Lopatin had to make music in his bedroom as he did when his recording career began. Of course, life had changed since his 2007 debut, Betrayed in the Octagon: he had driven a genre, vaporwave, narcotically slowing down famous song excerpts and collaborated with David Byrne, FKA twigs and Iggy Pop. However, he still had a cramped bedroom. “If I pushed my chair back to make music, I would hit the bed and end up hurting my ankle,” he laughs, sitting in the same room on an autumn afternoon.

Carefully renovated ... Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems.
Bling when you win … Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems. Photography: AP

These circumstances, however, inspired him to look back at his past and even reevaluate why he made music. It is no coincidence that his new album is titled Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, recalling how Lopatin’s original pseudonym came from a playful jumble of the name of a Boston soft-rock station from his youth (Magic 106.7). The album is a broad experimental tribute to radio culture and the way it pampers us in our lives, especially in times of crisis.

Lopatin was born in Wayland, Massachusetts in 1982 to Russian Jewish emigrants Susanna, a piano teacher and musicologist, and Leonid, a hardware engineer. (Daniel inherited his father’s Roland Juno-60 synthesizer in 1983; it is still his signature instrument.) The radio was “an important place for my imagination, as well as for my musical education,” he explains. “We had great college radios and free radios in Massachusetts. I loved that you can go in one fell swoop from hearing Charles Mingus to Anal Cunt to Phil Collins. “

He obsessively created mixtapes as a teenager, loving the magic that went into making them while you waited to hear a song you loved, before rewinding and recording them: “They contain your taste but also snippets of things that weren’t meant to be there.” He tried to recreate that feeling this year after returning to radio via Elara.FM, a New York-based online radio station hastily set up by the directors of Uncut Gems, the Safdie brothers. With mixtapes of people Lopatin knew marginally and others he didn’t know, it reminded him how much he loved bringing “little peers” into other people’s musical world, like they were “sharing something almost unconscious and very special about themselves”.

Oneohtrix Point Never’s music has always distorted the sounds of the past and the present together. He does it in a way that is familiar but fantastic, strange but full of wonder; pop hooks and thrilling rhythms that make his music accessible. He also explores great ideas through his work. In 2011’s Replica, he sampled TV commercials to comment on the decline of Western knowledge. In 2015’s Garden of Delete, he joked with grunge songs to remember how he felt in his teens. His work is accessible because it is as moving as it is shocking, like the mysterious workings of memory itself.

When the lockdown eased in July, Lopatin took his work in progress to a “friendly hippy” Airbnb in western Massachusetts. There, she watched the rabbits play in the garden as she put her album together, pacing it to start the morning and move kaleidoscopically, jerky, into the night. “I realized I wanted to make an album as a kind of projection of my life; of my listening life, “he explains. He also realized that radio brought people together, which meant a lot to him in Trump’s America.” Before the pandemic, we were already living in this [JG] Ballardian dystopia in which everyone is more interested in networking than physical contact. It scares the shit out of me. “Radio is a medium that shows another side of ourselves, he adds,” our incredible ability to share with one another. “

Magic… it’s more straightforward, Lopatin says, because it’s based on round songs, although all of them are delivered in its typical glitchy, spooky way. Pack the guests too. Caroline Polachek sings in Long Road Home, the supernatural shadow of an 80s pop epic. Ark contributes ominous whispers to Shifting. Then there’s No Nightmares, a beautiful power ballad for the most melancholy robot in the world. It just happens that the melancholy robot is Abel Tesfaye, AKA the multimillionaire The Weeknd.

Top Scorer ... Lopatin performs at the FYF Festival in Los Angeles.
Top Scorer … Lopatin performs at the FYF Festival in Los Angeles. Photographer: Scott Dudelson / WireImage

The friendship between Tesfaye and Lopatin started in 2017; The Canadian megastar got in touch after loving the pulsating, ambient soundtrack of the latter of the Safdie brothers’ 2017 crime thriller, Robert Pattinson, Good Time. No Nightmares emerged the first time they recorded together, a year later, at New York’s Electric Lady Studios. “I was just playing these very simple Procol Harum chords, Abel jumped into the booth and sang this wonderful top line on them. Everyone was simply shocked. “Lopatin also saw how much fame was when he and Tesfaye went out for coffee and to walk Tesfaye’s dog.” It was a nightmare. A shit show. All these cars move very slowly, just people staring – strange, shiny eyes of strangers “. Trembles; this is not life for him. “The discomfort I felt for him was probably mine.”

The pair collaborated again on Uncut Gems, another production by the Safdie brothers, in which Weeknd have a small but important role (the soundtrack was electronic only). Lopatin loves working with Josh and Benny Safdie. “They see the score as the undercurrent of their hero’s psyche and they want to, like, push him, push him, push him.” His original suggestions were too polite for them, he says. “They were all: ‘When do you really start doing that OPN thing?’ I said, ‘Are you serious?’ “The end result was a chilling piece of genius, like a 21st century version of Giorgio Moroder.

Once again ... Robert Pattinson in Good Time by the Safdie Brothers.
R-Patz the spirit … Robert Pattinson in Good Time by the Safdie brothers. Photograph: Alamy

Lopatin then co-wrote three tracks on Weeknd’s After Hours, a number 1 in the UK and the US. This includes the song they played on SNL, Scared to Live (its inclusion of a clip from Elton John’s Your Song is a classic OPN hoax). Tesfaye even became a vital part of Magic’s development; Lopatin sent him tracks to review every week. “I needed someone to give me perspective on what I was doing as a music fan because it tastes amazing,” he says. “It was like: ‘Burn it! This is an OPN record! “I thought,” Oh yeah, I forgot! “He was really in my corner as a friend.” They plan to meet again in January if the pandemic allows and “pick up where we started.”

There is a sense that more fame will come along the way of the brick-shitting man on SNL, but Lopatin insists he’s happy to be behind the megastars. However, the block made him reach out and rekindled his excitement about what his music can do, so he’s bound to go further.

“My music always seems better to me when things are changing and transforming,” he says beaming. “When the dial turns.”

Magic by Oneohtrix Point Never is out this Friday on Warp

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