Oneohtrix Point Never, electronic music’s most seasoned uncanny-valley explorer, is returning in November with his eighth and hardest-hitting album, Garden of Delete — a brave yet wholly idiosyncratic step towards a more “rock”-based sound. The sound-sculptor born Daniel Lopatin has spent nearly a decade making critically acclaimed, impressionistic, uneasy music that smears synthesizer globs between the lines of real and synthetic, nostalgic and cutting edge. But sometime after nine dates opening the Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden tour in 2014, Lopatin wandered towards what the diligent theorist calls “one-point perspective” and “antagonistic” — but ultimately sounds like abrasive electronic music stretched like Silly Putty.
Instead of the headphone-assisted home recording that has traditionally powered his work, Lopatin rented a hot, windowless studio underneath a natural-food supermarket in Brooklyn and blasted his music from amps.
“Yeah, it was like Maxell Tapes–guy style,” says Lopatin. “I got into it . . . . I had this dungeon reality and it was also kind of like I was uninhibited, like I would just get into the zone, work for like 17 hours. I was just, like, tweaking out in this windowless room and it encouraged this rock vibe.”
While maintaining his defiantly unsettling textures and harsh editing techniques, Garden of Delete really does have the feel of rock songs distended and malfunctioning — including sad-robot ballads (“No Good”), industrial-tinged kotostep (“Sticky Drama”) and Aphex-tweaked acid minimalism (“Mutant Standard”). First taste “I Bite Through It” feels like a quiet-verse, loud-chorus grunge song performed by a skipping CD. The song’s inhuman hook emerged after Lopatin typed words into voice synthesis plug-in Chipspeech and manipulated the results. Rolling Stone met with Lopatin in Brooklyn to discuss his move away from the murk.
How did you approach this record differently than the previous stuff you’ve done?
The easiest way to put it is, I spent a lot of time writing at the piano with no kind of sound in mind. If I can construct a song and then deal with the arrangement and whatever abstraction I want to subject it to later, then even if all those decisions are wrong, I’ll have these songs. I so wanted the challenge of moving myself with these songs, to feel that they were worthy of other people. I just wanted them to be songs where if there was an MTV Unplugged version of 0PN, I could get a band together and play these fuckin’ songs.
Are there versions of these songs floating around where it’s just a piano?
Yeah, completely. Because I would start with MIDI in the piano roll and basically get a very raw arrangement together with whatever instrument felt like a good writing tool at that moment: organ, piano, Rhodes, whatever. And if I felt like the thing moves and flows through the parts in a way that feels like . . . a rock song, basically, to put it really bluntly. I try to imagine, like, “Okay, if David Gilmour were here, could he sing on this, or what? Is this a fuckin’ short Floyd song from, like, ’84 or whatever?”