Review Summary: Longing for the future of the past.
“All music is world music -- music is a way of dealing with reality”. It’s now been nearly 6 years since Daniel Lopatin said this in an interview with Tiny Mix Tapes. These words, published around the same time the Rifts
compilation was released, have a special kind of poignancy in relation to the ideological space in which this album occupies. It seems almost like an exercise in coping; a cataloguing and arranging of the time-space and headspace that made up two years’ worth of compositions and ideas. As a compilation, Rifts
functions less as an arrangement of music than it does a manifesto of purpose; a declaration of intent and a schematic of the aural design that went into developing the kinds of patterns and methods that would become a staple of Daniel Lopatin’s unique, personal style (all of which are still very characteristic, even today). Maybe that’s why Rifts
works so well in the context of a single album, because it’s not just a catalogue of former, hard-to-find works. It is, in and of itself, a fully functioning piece of music that takes you on the same journey Mr. Lopatin took while writing the music that would eventually be compiled for this release.
Oneohtrix Point Never, as a project, has always seemed to be (for its creator at least) a conduit by which to update anachronisms and place them in the context of modern personal and cultural spaces. The underlying commentary of this process is that anachronisms are inherently fallacious, and that it is the context from which sounds originate that gives the illusion of age. Rifts
is really nothing more than synthesizer music, taking sounds and instruments from decades past and updating them to new contextual standards. However, regardless of where, chronologically, the sounds originate from, the music itself doesn’t sound the least bit dated. Instead of trying to revive an idea
(which can almost certainly be anachronistic), sounds are brought back and put in a modern context, using themes and motifs that resonate much more profoundly with the ears of a 21st century listener.
This idea is perhaps most apparent in the kind of existential anxiety that pervades Rifts
. Whereas early synthesizer music was characteristically optimistic, clawing at the threshold of a whole new world of musical composition and expression, Rifts
seems to look back on the naivety of the past and wonder why we still sit on Earth and wonder about exploring the cosmos, having never reached a future that seems to be perpetually just beyond our reach. It is, again, a forced attempt to deal with reality, the creation of an aural headspace the seeks more to alleviate these anxieties than it does to offer solutions. This, in and of itself, is the conundrum of the post-modern human, put into almost three hours of progressively mutating, melancholic synthesizer music.
can also be downright terrifying at times, not only longing for the future of the past but relinquishing itself to the reality that progress is always heavily sedated by risk. Daniel Lopatin’s compositions are neither totally human nor completely synthetic; they seek to guide machines to create something that is uncannily human; to coax out of them something that resonates deeply with the human spirit but at the same time preserves the mechanical nature of the noises. While flurries of arpeggiated patterns and serene pads dominate this compilation, there are points where it seems like Lopatin himself loses control of his machines and allows them to take total control. They do so, not with the quest for beauty that a human touch supplies, but with chaotic, random, and guileless noise that reminds the listener that he or she may lose themselves in this quest for progress, and that stepping forward always leaves a part of the self behind.
There is a reason that Oneohtrix Point Never has become more or less a household name in the experimental electronic world. Daniel Lopatin has always had a definite and focused purpose buried within his music, and Rifts
functions as the point in his career where this ideology crystallized into a guiding principle rather than just being an esoteric groundwork from which to build. Rifts
is a long, labyrinthine, challenging listen but, as with all great music, it rewards attention and effort just as much as it challenges the mind. Oneohtrix Point Never will go down as one of the most influential and unique musical acts of the 21st century (whose influence can already be seen reverberating throughout the current musical environment), and Rifts
will serve as the fixed point to notate where it all began.