Review Summary: Relaxing on an established audience
Even more so than his latest record Age Of
, Magic Oneohtrix Point Never
feels like Daniel Lopatin's contemplation of his own legacy, a retrospective work self-referencing past projects. It features the manufactured aura of Age Of
and Garden of Delete
while still emphasizing the experimentalism that made Replica
and R Plus Seven
the bizarrely obsessing objects they are. To achieve a merging of one's influences, one has to return to initial stimuli. Lopatin came back to the radio station. If modern radios consist of a gigantic playlist of anything popular, OG stations used to carelessly switch genres to take advantage of a wide listener base. Although his other albums also throve on eccentric shifts, this time OPN deliberately sticks to a switching soundscape thanks to a new approach of his. This radio concept is majorly brought by two elements: the seemingly free-flowing procedure, and the "Cross Talk" segments. Functioning like commercial breaks, these short interludes act as breathers among the warbled sceneries.
Apart from these lulls, the album indeed operates as a whole rather than as separate tunes, each song bleeding into the next one in a succession of white noises and progressive electronic antics. Of course, as a Lopatin album, Magic
contains its fair share of the a e s t h e t i c
he helped create with 2010's Eccojams
. The first proper track "Auto & Allo" features pitched vocals and these now-classic Mega Drive-inspired bleeps and bloops, but where the song differs from his past material is in the implementation of baroque strings juxtaposed with electronic textures. Similarly, "Bow Ecco" is a literal bow to Lopatin's eccojams period, as is "The Whether Channel" and its unstructured take on hypnagogic music.
The album nevertheless moves beyond these shticks, and it is when this aesthetic is mixed with poppier elements that the album reveals its nature. "Long Road Home" is a synthpop tune embellished by a vaporwave aesthetic and baroque strings. Likewise, "I Don't Love Me Anymore" uses both Lopatin and Caroline Polachek's robotized vocals in a sort of ballad borrowing as much from traditional chamber pop than from electronic futurism. What's surprising is the addition of unbridled beats that accelerate the rhythm in an exciting jolt of energy that might be Lopatin's boldest take at a dance track yet. These increased pop elements shine most on the The Weeknd feature, "No Nightmares". Channeling 80s cheesy pop, its dreamlike atmosphere is supported by silky vocals and muffled drums. In moments like that, Magic
is the most direct OPN album, because some of its songs are, well, songs. Even though all tracks are delivered in his trademark glitchy method, songwriting and structure are given the highest focus ever on a Point Never record.
Make no mistake though: this is not a pop album. It's the poppiest Lopatin has ever been with the Oneohtrix moniker, but the way the progressive electronic foundations fiercely fight the synths’ poppiness make this album an abstruse one at its core. Indeed, this is, first and foremost, a progressive electronic album. Some tracks are more evident than others when it comes to such heritage ("Tales From the Trash Stratum"), but almost all of them are built around an assemblage of moving timbres and trance synths. Of course, OPN has already crafted progressive electronic albums but never has he used this template to incorporate all his other influences. "Lost But Never Alone" nods to Garden of Delete
era with its fierce inclusion of rock elements into a psychedelic electronic tune, while "Nothing Is Special" incorporates an atonal sax onto chirping electronics.
So. This does sound all over the place, doesn't it?
It does, but this is precisely the desired effect. As a radio station moves between genres and moods, Magic
flows between Lopatin's influences and loves. The most impressive feat is the overall cohesion that emerges out of this project, succeeding at embarking the listener on a cosmic journey waving multiple influences. Everything is there: static breakdowns, sound collages, sudden silences, and synth arpeggios. It's a mess. But what a beautiful, hypnotic mess.