Review Summary: drowning in the sea of information.
For all intents and purposes, R Plus Seven
is exactly what the world should have expected from Daniel Lopatin's major independent label debut. All the elements that have come to be expected from his pastiche of nostalgia are present -- the hand crafted palette of synth pads straight out of the arpeggiator on his Juno-60, the sampling and layering of contradictory sound bits from any number of decades produced by an age of technological oversaturation and overstimulation. The constant strain between rhythmic pulses and the formless ambient sound design that pervades his entire catalogue all sort of jumble into one big ball of postmodern aesthetic and get thrown against the wall to see what sticks. Yet, there's something different this time around, and that something has managed to wiggle itself far enough into the woodwork of Lopatin's synthetic world to fundamentally change how R Plus Seven
sounds relative to the rest of his work as well as how it was meant to be consumed.
Oneohtrix Point Never's music up to this point has always been sort of guileless and ideologically barren in a way that's both charming and engaging. Even up to his previous release, Replica
(which introduced a newfound interest in sonic bricolage) Lopatin's music remained grounded in an atmosphere of whimsical nostalgia that was never interested in challenging the motivations of its audience. R Plus Seven
is a new beast entirely, a journey that feels like waking up from a happy dream only to find out that dreams are an incomplete version of the real world, retaining only what we want to see. "Boring Angel" opens the album as unassumingly as it possibly could, with a soft fog of synthetic organ and small showers of arpeggios and synth noodling. However, as soon as Americans
kicks in with broken splashes of children playing on a sunny day, the direction of R Plus Seven
shifts by orders of magnitude into the familliar world of overstimulation that Lopatin has previously toyed with, but viewed through a lens of criticality rather than nostalgia and harmless retroism.
Even though R Plus Seven
functions as a similar sonic palette to those Lopatin has worked with before, it is punctuated by splashes of noise and discord that act as a sort of deconstruction of the domains his music previously inhabited. The first few tracks on the album, namely "Americans" and "Inside World", are characterized by sections of cohesive progressions and arrangements interrupted by jolts of discordant sounds that penetrate into the sphere which the core musicality of the album inhabits. This has the effect, for both the music itself and the listener, of creating a world of alluring imperfections, like looking through a broken telescope and seeing only splashes of light and form. Each composition can be consumed both as a whole and as individual bites of sound, where each burst functions as its own microcosm of music.
The middle portion of R Plus Seven
sees the punctuated discordance of the first few tracks slowly shift into more ordered and focused compositions that resemble the efforts on Replica
more often than not. After the brash and intrusive nature of the album's opening tracks, this minor shift in tone provides a period where the listener can connect to the atmosphere of the music with a visceral clarity that R Plus Seven
initially eschews. Tracks like "Zebra" and "Problem Areas" allow the musician in Lopatin to overtake the theorist, showcasing his talent for creating engaging compositions that almost beg for repeated listens. Yet, the true brilliance underlying these separate sections of R Plus Seven
is that the songs themselves function almost like the individual blots of noise that pervade most of the tracks on the album. There is a thematic cohesion that encompasses the record that is seemingly counterintuitive on initial listens but becomes more and more apparent as the precisely calculated position of each sound reveals itself. This provides a framework for an album that necessitates multiple listens to properly digest, as many of the concepts become both thematically and compositionally deconstructed over the course of the runtime.
Yet, there is an ever growing presence of anxiety and sinister apprehension that pervades the length of R Plus Seven
, a constantly building crescendo threatening to break at any moment. And it is on "Still Life", the climax of the album and one of the most visceral Oneohtrix Point Never tracks to date, where this tension finally breaks in a calamitous burst of washed out rave aesthetic. Yet, this final burst of tension is not simply one of musical climax, but simultaneously the point at which the fundamental difference between R Plus Seven
and Lopatin's previous works becomes glaringly apparent, and many of the self contained criticisms show themselves as well. R Plus Seven
is an album that not only deconstructs the sonic fabric of his previous efforts, but takes an extremely critical eye to the motivations behind the reckless exploitation of postmodern deconstruction Lopatin began toying with during the release of Replica and the output that followed it. Where Replica
saw the technologically oversaturated and overstimulated environment as a playground for constructivist exploration, R Plus Seven
treats this world as a treacherous landscape of overindulgence and inflated self-importance, a land where the individual is so smothered by the inundation of information that he uses any means necessary for recognition and social evaluation. This criticism exists as a duality, placing its lens within the context of the album itself as well as extending to the environment in which it was created.
Unfortunately for Lopatin, this is what will ultimately dominate the criticism that follows the album. Because it is music that comes with no narration and no lyrics, it must say what it has to say through sound rather than speech, and the ideology behind R Plus Seven
pervades the album to a point where the voice of the music and the voice of the criticism ironically clash over and over, fighting for dominance throughout the length of the album. Luckily, he has proven himself to be an excellent musician who, even under the weight of the albums philosophies, has the capacity to craft visceral and engaging compositions that ultimately make for an album that is more daunting and apprehensive than it is truly challenging. Once the initial barrier of ulterior motivation melts away, what lies beneath is a compilation of interconnected sketches that are almost contradictorily cohesive, making for an adventurous and multilayered addition to Lopatin's ever growing catalogue. Repeated listens reward the listener with hidden splashes of brilliance that give R Plus Seven
a sense of freshness on each successive examination that will ultimately define it's lasting power. A record that won't soon be forgotten under the collapsing mountain of hype that preceded it, R Plus Seven
is a worthwhile effort that should captivate both previous fans of Oneohtrix Point Never and newcomers to the synthetic jungle-mind of Daniel Lopatin and Oneohtrix Point Never.