Wednesday, December 9, 2015 by Hunter Johns
Over the past two or so weeks, I’ve been listening to Garden of Delete, the latest release by Daniel Lopatin under his Oneohtrix Point Never moniker. Garden of Delete follows 2013’s R Plus Seven, Lopatin’s debut on venerable British independent label Warp.
Lopatin’s latest is alternately sparse and dense. Beautifully constructed choruses melt into metal-inspired rants of twisted synths and distorted vocals and then solidify; textures shift and then right themselves. Tracks like “Sticky Drama” or “I Bite Through It” are even catchy, or as catchy as this genre of music can be; the melodies are distinct enough to be recognizable, the lyrics perhaps less so. Though his choice of instrumentation bars him from coming within miles of a Top 40 radio station, Lopatin has a canny ear for song structure, and that ear is what makes this record for me. Without it, GoD might have been a random collection of terrifyingly cheesey sounds and samples, but with it, the sounds and samples assemble neatly into a set of masterfully arranged compositions.
Garden of Delete doesn’t end at the close of the album, however; Lopatin, in anticipation of the album’s release, planted a few Internet easter eggs for his fans to discover. There’s Ezra, the teenage alien with a mutilated complexion, who reportedly gave Lopatin much of the material for GoD. Ezra has a Blogsspot account that includes cryptic posts from 1994 through the present, outlining his love for a “hypergrunge” band known as Kaoss Edge, and an equally cryptic twitter account with roughly the same content. Kaoss Edge, coincedently, is a fictional band created by Lopatin himself, and is probably the conceptual source of the metal-flavored interludes that populate Garden of Delete.
With the addition of his easter eggs, GoD becomes conceptually larger. Alienation emerges as a dominant theme; Lopatin uses Ezra, a literal alien, as a symbol for teenage alienation. Ezra’s twisted, bubbling complexion could easily be a reference to teenage acne, something that in its worst forms could alienate its adolescent sufferers. Ezra’s interest in music and music production, as evidenced by his Blogspot account, might point to Lopatin’s own musical development. The posts coincide perfectly with Lopatin’s own adolescence (Loptatin was born in 1982, therefore would have been twelve in 1994 and fifteen in 1997 etc.), and I am skeptical that this is an accident; I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to say that some of Ezra’s fictional life experiences are Lopatin’s own, if not all of them.
Lopatin’s use of content outside the album itself to complete a concept is not new. I first thought of of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, which, aside from the album itself, also featured an accompanying music video/short film and an epic live show, both of which furthered The Wall’s statement on uniformity and the quashing of creativity. I also thought of Kendrick Lamar’s recent music video series in support of his latest record To Pimp a Butterfly, which has so far included “King Kunta,” ”Alright,” “For Free?” and “These Walls.” Lamar has gone above and beyond the music industry’s call of duty by making these videos, most of which are long, narrative, and conceptually consistent with the album. Other examples are many; for plenty of artists, the standard cycle of music video/album/tour just isn’t enough fallow ground to sow their artistic seed, and some piece of the cycle gets better developed as a result (to the benefit of the fans, I might add).
What makes Lopatin’s version of that development particularly brilliant to me is its deployment. There are plenty of ways that he could have executed his vision of Ezra and Kaoss Edge: maybe an Ezra figurine by Kid Robot or an official release of a Kaoss Edge album could have done the trick. Lopatin chose to hide his vision on the Internet and let his fans discover it through Reddit and Twitter, thus creating an odd bond between himself and the fan who chose to do their research on the album. Lopatin’s music is almost entirely electronic and created through a computer, and thus the concept’s deployment in cyberspace seems fitting: computers are therefore both the creative tool and the consumptive tool of Garden of Delete, a work of art that exists completely in cyberspace.
Garden of Delete was released November 13 on Warp Records. Get it here in all formats.
Hunter Johns is a senior covering music for the Rod.