Replica by Oneohtrix Point Never | Album Review
Electronic artist Oneohtrix Point Never creates a bizarrely beautiful soundscape on Replica.
As of late, I have been diving into more experimental and electronic works to see what is out there. Through some suggestions from friends and internet searches I came upon Oneohtrix Point Never’s 2011 project Replica. The first song I heard off the album, the title track, immediately had me hooked. The album is made up of various samples, including those of old television commercials, which leads to an absolutely unique listening experience.
There’s this company I found on the internet called Videomercials — it might be one guy, I don’t know — and they make these DVD compilations of old commercials. Essentially, it’s like a nostalgia dealer. And he has just volumes and volumes, like “Daytime Commercials 1983-’87” or “Late Night Commercials ‘89-’93”. So I spent $100 on these DVDs. A ton of them were shit like sexy commercials for coffee and crappy stuff from daytime television, like melodramatic laundry commercials, fast food, consumer electronics.Yeah. Obviously, the purpose of these commercials was to sell something, but it’s amazing what’s happening in between the phrasings of the pitch — these strange pauses and little incidental sounds. So those sounds were my drums, and the voice-over would be my singer.
Daniel Lopatin, the name of artist Oneohtrix Point Never, chops and warps these samples into something otherworldly.
We open up on ambient tones of “Andro”. The synth pads and backing samples feel reminiscent to some Playstation or N64 video game soundtracks. It’s got a very mystery aqueous nature to it. Beneath these atmospheric tones comes the subtle repetition of muffled broadcasting. It’s like an odd call out against the nocturnal lull these commercials allow. You get this unsettled feeling as the song devolves towards the end, becoming almost jungle-like against the sample of the MTV Haircut ID commercial from 1987. The drums from this give this frantic unraveling. We continue with the haunting piano samples of “Power of Persuasion”. The cut and splicing of these panicked piano melodies feel like channels on an old cable television that won’t quite pick up. The added synth as the song progresses gives only a strange out of this world feeling. It comes together very well with this added segment. All of this fades into nothingness towards the end. It feels like a warped sense of realty as your sucked into this slightly familiar, yet wholly bizarre realm. “Sleep Dealer” immediately cuts in with the sighs, percussive vocal cuts, and 80s computerized sound from the 1988 Wrigley’s Gum commercial. Again, the soft synth production and comfortable spacey tones provide a relaxing vibe all against the stuttering samples of this commercial that breaks through this vibe completely.
One of my favorites from the project is the more almost holy sounding “Remember”. I love the texture the just slightly clashing synth notes provide. The sampled strings or maybe choral tones also give the song such a wide feeling. I love the thick purplish grey hue it casts the entire song in. The sample of Stranger in the House’s “It’s a Good Time for Great Taste” from a McDonald’s add in 1986 almost takes the song into a 90s house/trip-hop territory. Overall, it’s a fantastic soundscape. The first song I ever heard from this album is the title track, “Replica”. I absolutely fell in love with the autumnal jazzy piano lines, spacey beats, and proto-chillhop production. This is our resting point. Even in moments when the song decays, it rises back up to continue a slow trudging motion forward. This is definitely my favorite off the album. “Nassau” cuts and screws The Simpson’s Butterfingers ad from 1988. Behind the subtle sound of television static, you get the percussive beat of the momentary breathes and starting syllables from the commercial. The addition of foot steps from the ad and computerized beats gives a very consumerist mechanical timbre. The most spacial and aquatic is “Submersible”. The synths almost breathe through this rhythmic pattern. The backing effects provide this cold isolating wind sound that only at the floating sensation. Again, I get tastes of water level music from various video game titles from this absence of up and down soundscape.
We take a more industrial route on “Up”. I did not see the sample from where the continued “Up” comes from, but against the heavy metallic beats and overlapping synths you just feel like your ascending higher and higher on some elevator. The sound is both nostalgic in its presentation and modern. “Child Solider” immediately opens on the cuts of the Nabisco Nintendo commercial from 1989. This sounds of arcade games and a child’s “ha!” give mind to the training for war that Lopatin was going for. Add that to the warped sample of the McDonald’s commercial from “Remember” and you get this bizarrely 90s electronic sound. We end the project out on the truly otherworldly “Explain”. The sampled electronic flutes give a very unsettled feeling as they actively work with and against each other to create an oddly beautiful yet ominous dissonance. We begin to add some sense of stability through more grounded blocky synth lines that come in halfway through the track. This settles out more towards the end as the thick synth bass and chopped synths “dos” shuffle us out of this luminal space we’ve entered.
I have to say I was quite taken by this project as a whole. It’s a very interesting usage of full disposable commercial pieces from decades past. This coupled with the warping of what many would find nostalgic from these ads into something abstract calls to attention the strange familiarity we have with consumerism. I also love how Daniel’s production brings to mind so many other soothing tones (such as chill hop, trip-hop, and video game soundtracks). I highly recommend giving this a listen to zone out and walk this luminal space. My favorites:
My overall rating: 7.0 out of 10.