Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden Of Delete

Oneohtrix Point Never has returned with a massive new album you can call G.O.D. It peels up the corner tiles of a thousand realities over 45 minutes, blooming micro-worlds of sound and immediately dissolving in head-on collisions.

For the first time in years, OPN – real name Daniel Lopatin – hasn’t completely restructured his sound, yet I’m feeling the same sense of dizzying vertigo that he’s made a career out of conjuring. In a real sense, the strongest component of his appeal has always been that daring sense of surprise, the act of an artist venturing over the edge of the known music world and bringing back sounds that I’ve never even anticipated, much less heard. More than a style, it’s an idea, a philosophy. In the wrong hands, it can become a cheap trick. This is something far more substantial.

In a big way I feel that Garden Of Delete is both Lopatin’s most extreme and somehow his warmest, most accessible album at once. But then I remember that I’ve been a fan since 2009’s Zones Without People and my perspective is probably a little bent. Yet, there’s something magical about the way he juxtaposes dizzying timbral clashes against his most endearing melodies to date.  I’m once again in love with the unknown.


Structurally, the album sounds at first like Lopatin merely expanded the midi-sourced processes of R Plus Seven, yet it’s colored like the oceanic synths and cascading minimalism of his Rifts and Eccojams works, respectively. Rapid-fire micro structures tear songs apart like Replica, leaving apocalyptic noise in their wake. The last time we heard digital noise this fierce was the intro to his debut to the wider world, Returnal. In a way, he’s peeled off the most intriguing layers of each of his prior works and built something curiously alien.

Ezra, the first proper track, leaps from the midi-fired dreams of the previous album, reaching speed behind sheets of Philip Glass-like shrill arpeggios. It appears to crest before the two minute mark, suddenly projecting the nanomachine-clogged cyberpunk future of 2000’s Deus Ex in silhouette. Maybe it’s a sample?

You’ll hear it. Also, this is probably my favorite game of all time. If you haven’t played it, you’re seriously missing out.

Sticky Drama, the first “single-friendly” tune of the set, realizes its structure in the angst and black makeup of the nu-metal era. The song manages to sidestep cliche and extract the wireframe model of what made the best of those songs work, with giant dynamic shifts, telegraphed bass drops, and distortion-croaked vocals rendered exotic and purposeful.

At the center of the album, 8 minute Mutant Standard bursts out clad in minimal techno, snowballing into a close cousin of last year’s kaleidoscopic (and near-perfect) Syro, bursting at the seams with a ragged midi arpeggio before fading into new age bliss. It wasn’t until the song ended that I realized it’s the most straightforward “dancey” song Lopatin has ever recorded.

The song reaches a skidding, frantic momentum that reminds me of nothing so much as the most mind-shredding moment from Aphex Twin’s noisy classical/techno masterpiece, Drukqs. I’m thinking Mt Saint Michel + Saint Michael’s Mount. The ending quivers and bows out, shuffling offstep like a particularly warm Autechre song.

Soon we reach Animals, the emotional nadir of the album. I’m sent floating through the pixelated clouds of a Japanese RPG, watching a most heart-wrenching scene unfold beneath my feet. I’m out of reach, unable to help, and infinitely crushed. It’s perfect, conveying more chest-heaving gravity than anything the experimental composer has yet recorded. The weirdest part is that this feeling of direct emotion, of lyricism, feels perhaps the most revelatory part of the experience. I’m not just shedding tears of awe at arresting music; I’m hit with the kind of knee-jerk feelings that usually accompany songs with a literal story to tell.

This music is as soul-stirring as anything I’ve listened to in the past year.

CD Booklet OPN GOD - images embeded

The cover art seems to reflect my 16bit mood reading: a dragon perched atop a smoldering pile of ruins, a crescent moon cradled in its toes and a broken man below. Or maybe you see something completely different; I haven’t actually asked anyone else.

Some of the noisiest moments feel like a simulated storm being ripped to shreds from within, the neon pop of frantic game scores bursting outward. It’s hard to describe the transcendent feeling, realizing the corniest fragments of my childhood have been dissolved and transformed into something startlingly new. It’s an intellectual sucker punch to a listener of a certain age, and emotionally naked as anything this abstract could possibly be.

The calmer moments are awash in the nostalgia for unreal places like Balamb Garden from Final Fantasy VIII. It’s a feeling I know too well, growing up with NES and Playstation soundtracks making more of an impression than the radio could ever have hoped to. The more disorienting side of the album embraces like a fever dream, exhilarating, a little too fast and dense to truly grasp. This too grips me with a firm sense of nostalgia; I actually played that Final Fantasy in one long streak while home from school, sick for 10 days with mono. It’s a peculiarly satisfying feeling to remember a serious illness so fondly. The best moments of this album reach that same strangely delicious head space and hammer away.

With a fresh layer of earnest emotion and a Berlin techno pulse beneath the surface, Garden Of Delete manages to tug at unknown parts of my heart. It delivers a quiet yearning and sense of loss like the phantom pain of an alternate life, something missed deeply without ever having known.

Throughout the second half of the album, there’s a lot of minor key piano, echoed and delayed, hazy and mourning, mixing in and out of tactile and purely electronic tones. The album reaches its peak with Freaky Eyes, where it’s become clear that the whiplash tonal shifts and textural confusion have been building toward serious melodic an emotional payoff. This is, in its own way, a radical move for Lopatin.

In a flourish worthy of a magician’s rabbit from a hat, a wandering drone transforms into a towering organ arpeggio, tumbling and building toward an apocalyptic crescendo. Right at the most orgasmic moment, someone flips the dial. Sucked through static, we’re witnessing the shuttering death of AM gold tune in undeniably catchy fashion. The melody is reborn in plastic synths before escaping unseen into the dream of a foggy wood at night.

The incredible precision with which Lopatin takes us through this narrative rollercoaster is the key to grasping the entire album. The way that a million intersecting and hyper-fast ideas fit together like the most painstaking, slowly woven tapestry when the final song ends and the entire piece is revealed.

I’m not yet sure if this is my favorite Oneohtrix Point Never album, but I had to review it and express this idea: I think Garden Of Delete is the most perfect distillation of that sense of wild unpredictability and next-level shock that has colored all of his work so far. It’s as much a startling next step as a perfect introduction for new fans.

You can order the album  from Warp at Bleep or just listen on Spotify when it comes out November 13, 2015. In fact, I’ll probably embed the stream right here on that date, so keep an eye out.

Funk Is Important

I’m always hearing music from outside my window. I live near a lot of bars, and my downtown has become a sort of motorcycle Mecca in the summertime, so I often hear classic rock or country blasting into my open windows before an open-throttle roar into the dark. It’s usually crap that I tune out, but just now I heard this song.

It’s Let It Whip, by Dazz Band, and it’s one of those songs you know even if you don’t realize it. Even better, it made me think about how fantastic it is that funk is making an oblique comeback in the cultural consciousness.

I heard the bass line echoing through the full row of windows I’ve got cracked open on this balmy 70 degree night in late September, and sprung to attention. It’s one of my favorite funk tunes but I couldn’t place the name. Where did I first hear it? Probably a Grand Theft Auto game, I think. Since you’ve seen the video above, you know the answer is yes.


I’m feeling so thankful for Dam-Funk and his ambassadorship of the entire funk genre. If it weren’t for him, I don’t know if I would have ever taken a leap back into the sounds of Zapp, Cameo, and Funkadelic. The weirdest thing is, once I cracked open these sounds I realized that funk had been with me all along. I’d been living and breathing the familiar beats my entire life, influenced by movies and the radio I’d mainlined as a child, without ever explicitly focusing on the genre as something I’m passionate about.

There’s something inherently cheesy about a lot of funk, and that’s something that a lot of people have to get over before they can engage it head on. Funk is an incredibly earnest genre, and in our current culture that’s kind of an embarrassing, abrasive feeling to convey. It’s the opposite of comfortable detachment, in a lot of ways, and that just feels weird when you’re not used to it. But once you let it in and enjoy it on its own aesthetic and emotional terms, this is music to keep warm to.

Right now, I couldn’t be more glad that I’m a believer in funk. 2015 has been a banner year for the genre, infusing one of the biggest albums of the year from end-to -end with a hard-fought riot-funk edge and being shot into the sky in neon fireworks proclaiming its vitality. The latter was Dam-Funk’s very own Invite The Light, a triple LP that continues to be my most-listened album in months, and the former was the absolutely monumental To Pimp A Butterfly, from Kendrick Lamar. As an independent entity, it might be more of an endangered species among current music genres, but the essence of funk has once again blown fresh life into hip-hop and jazz alike.

EDIT: I seriously hope you clicked that Cameo link above, because the video for Candy is some seriously bonkers hypnagogic dreamstuff. Just watch it, I’m making it super easy:

WOW, right? I thought so.

Indian Summer

It’s almost October and I’ve been biking to work every day in a tee shirt. It’s been glorious. I’m luxuriating in the best Indian summer in memory here on the coast of Lake Michigan and I’m taking the opportunity to share the best song named after this rare phenomenon.

I present to you Indian Summer, by Spectrum (aka Pete Kember, formerly Sonic Boom and half of Spacemen 3):

Despite Kember’s affectless delivery and detached atmosphere, this Beat Happening cover is incredibly warm, an enveloping bear hug that’s equal parts comforting and unsettling. He might be known for a deadpan take on psych drone, but his organ swells and horn blasts feel like the sun on your closed eyelids compared to the original recording’s caveman minimalism. While the sonics reach a nearly anthemic pitch, the lyrics rip the air from our sails.

We’ll come back for Indian Summer
We’ll come back for Indian Summer
We’ll come back for Indian Summer
And go our separate ways

Seriously this song. I always feel like I’m beaming until the last few lyrics cut through. It’s a good, well-earned deflation though. It feels good in its cool letdown. The kind of sadness I can get behind on any sunny, oddly warm day.



I think I should post a lot more about the 80s and 90s rock that I’ve loved for years. While you’re here, why not check out the original too? Which do you prefer?


I love a good cinemagraph.


This here is from Nostalgia, a 1983 film by Andrei Tarkovsky. I’ve never seen it, but I’m about to correct that oversight. If you’re not familiar with Tarkovsky, raise your eyes to the header image of this very blog. That’s a shot from my favorite film of his (so far), a hallucinatory, existential adventure called Stalker.

If you’ve got any favorite cinemagraphs, please leave them in the comments! I relish finding new ones. This particular example is from Tech Noir. Check that site for some more gorgeous film loops.

NWA – Express Yourself

There are some tracks that get me hyped as hell, ready to go, no matter what. N.W.A. made one of them.

The year was 1989 and it was the final single for Straight Outta Compton. In a new twist from the group that dropped Fuck The Police, it’s a mainly upbeat tune centered on a classic soul rock sample, featuring virtually no profanity.

Not only is the song all about positivity, being real, and doing what you love, it’s got one of the most famously (and hilariously) disingenuous lines that I’ve ever heard. Witness Dr. Dre rapping:

I still express yo I don’t smoke weed or sess
cuz it’s known to give a brother brain damage

This is the guy whose debut album was titled The Chronic. His next album had a flat black cover with only a pot leaf on it. At the time it probably sounded like a respectability ploy, but almost 30 years later, it just feels like a good joke. I used to cruise around getting high with friends after school, and we’d all shout along to the lyric while blasting the album as loud as we could. Now that I’m old, I just do the shouting at home, thank you.


Also I found this great picture of the group from 1989, an outtake from an LA Times feature written at the height of their popularity. It’s crazy to think that Easy E, the charismatic man out front, would be dead a few years later. Even crazier to think that Ice Cube would be playing the put-upon father in a family film a decade after that. Even crazier still to think that Dr. Dre, the shy face in the back center of the photo and lone rapper on this track, would be a billionaire another 10 years down the line.

This just reminded me that I totally missed out on seeing Straight Outta Compton in theaters this summer. Did you see it? I’ve heard good things, and I’ve got high hopes, bolstered by this tune right now!

Soundcloud Is Dead

So here we are, the moment I feared might arrive: Soundcloud has unceremoniously deleted one of my mixtapes under the grounds that it contains copyrighted content.

Of course it does; it’s a mixtape. We create mixes under the assumption that, since they’re noncommercial and constitute a radical reframing of the original work, they’re perfectly legal to share for free. This is not the case. At least, not if you’re an individual facing the wrath of a company like Sony or Universal. This is a guilty until proven innocent situation, and most people don’t have the time or money to prove that a free mixtape falls under fair use.


I saw the rumblings months ago: Factmag warned that SoundCloud’s new copyright infringement software is wreaking havoc on uploaded mixes and then I heard that Sony in particular was on the warpath. DJs were getting terminations left and right. Even worse, just last month it was reported that artists were getting their own original work deleted by an overzealous system that shot first and asked questions later, if you were lucky.

My account was biding its time beneath this metaphorical sword of Damocles. And then I forgot all about it. I forgot that the earth had shifted beneath Soundcloud and that it was no longer a safe place. Today, that ground opened up and swallowed my mix. Deleted, gone. They sent an email informing me that any more strikes will result in an account termination, and that any attempt to question the validity of the takedown will be met with a vigorous middle finger in my face.

More than anything, this saddens me because I really like sharing my mixes with you. With everyone. I spend my time carefully curating the songs that I love and giving them new context so that I can share the way I listen with other people. It’s both a passion project and a way to communicate where words fall short.

When I got the email and realized I had no recourse, I googled the problem. I immediately found this informative article that I should have read 4 years ago, when it was published. Not only did they predict the copyright reaping, but they tipped me off to Mixcloud. This turned out to be the real deal, a bit of sage advice.

Instead of proactively assaulting their users on the behalf of major labels, Mixcloud apparently does everything necessary to keep the internet’s DJ culture spinning (hah) legally and free. It took me only a few minutes to set up a profile and get a once-deleted mix live and streaming. Look, I’ve already got a widget here:

Progress by Optimisticunderground on Mixcloud

To be entirely fair to Soundcloud, it’s still a good resource for artists to share their new material, getting it into the ears of fans and fellow musicians with relative ease. Hell, Aphex Twin is still releasing a steady torrent of archival material, as I detailed back in February. I just worry about its future, about all the beloved music on there that might vanish in an instant because of archaic copyright laws and gun-shy social platforms. It’s painful to witness the moment when a company reveals that it cares for its customers even less than we feared. So while I will continue to support the musicians who work on the site, I won’t be using it for my own material. If you’re a musician who values your audience and your art, you’ll want to have a backup plan.

This is where I my past and future mixes will all appear: Optimistic Underground on Mixcloud. There’s just one up so far, but the rest will be up tonight and many more will appear in the future. The best feature of this site is the fact that there are no limitations for free users – I can keep uploading without having to delete my old files. As a central streaming hub for sharing music, this is invaluable to the hobbyists like me who do it all for free.

So that’s all I’ve got right now. If you know or anyone you know uses Soundcloud to share dj mixes or anything else sampling copyrighted material, consider this your warning. Get your music off the site and onto a safer place! We can only hope that some sensible changes come to copyright law as it adapts to the modern world.

Edit: Here’s some possibly fantastic news, just hours after I wrote this post!

Why Winning the Dancing Baby Lawsuit Is a Big Deal for the Internet

In summary: this case is helping to deal a blow agains the practice of automated DMCA takedowns, the exact thing that knocked my Soundcloud account out.

The Boo Radleys – Wish I Was Skinny

I forgot how much I loved this song.

Despite the title, the lyrics are actually about all sorts of insecurities that we find ourselves plagued with. The song happily dances upon the surface of existential loathing, a buoyant celebration of being weird and alone and, on rare occasion, freaking out and having some unbridled fun.

I’d never seen the video before today, so I’m thankful I thought to look it up. The band members star as put-upon losers who let loose a bit of anarchy in the driving, instrumental second half of the tune. It’s basically what I saw in my head every time the song played, a cathartic release of tension and inhibitions. After all these years, it’s still a burst of joy.


The Boo Radleys may be remembered in Britpop history for their 1995 breakthrough Wake Up!, but I’ve always had a much softer spot for the previous album, Giant Steps. Wish I Was Skinny is a bit of a red herring, since the rest of the album is a turbulent, dizzying race through a dense series of wild sound worlds.

It’s an incredibly ambitious psychedelic pop album, veering from washed out shoegaze to broken jazz explosions, infused with an uncanny pop sensibility that makes even the noisiest parts endearing. It was ballsy to name an album after the John Coltrane masterpiece, but if anyone in the world of 90s British rock deserved to use it, it was this band.

If you become nauseous at the mere mention of Oasis, don’t worry. These guys have more in common with Mercury Rev or My Bloody Valentine than those lamentable torch-bearers for British pop overseas.