Boomkat Product Review:
Daniel Lopatin reclaims the uncanny sorcery of 'Garden of Delete' on 'Again', evanescing divergent styles into an unashamedly pompous roil of vapor-damaged harpsichord twangs, bombastic synth-prog workouts, damaged emo-pop, computer-controlled avant minimalism and fractal ambience. He's back.
We're not gonna lie, 'Magic Oneohtrix Point Never' didn't quite work for us. The album might have been a way for Lopatin to hearken back to his musical roots as his star rapidly ascended into the mainstream, but it veered too close to parody - and a joke often only plays well once. 'Again', as the title casually suggests, returns spiritually to a formula more recognizable as Lopatin's own, and presents a suite of cursed fetishes that surreally unravel pop's most uncomfortable excesses. Unlike its predecessor, it's disturbingly unconventional, preferring to disrupt the canon than replicate its over-civilized charm.
After a brief, orchestral intro (the Beatles-esque 'Elseware'), Lopatin is back on home turf with the title track, weaving impossible, wordless robotic vocals around pitch-mangled piano roll trills and chunky glitches. It's a neat way to signal the past before he inevitably shifts his gaze, cutting to near silence and bringing back the orchestrals, this time scraping dissonantly to pre-empt the track's florid crescendo. A brief burst of manic euphoria is displaced by tense creaks and dissociated, chattering voices. It's a signal of what's to come; throughout the album, Lopatin's themes come and go like jumbled memories flooding back in a chemically-induced rush of nostalgia, but it's deceptive. The sounds never quite match up to expectations: voices are nebulous and opaque, and memorable phrases are trashed as soon as they materialise, often strangled by intangible electronic processes and elevated compositional tricks.
'Krumville' is a solid example; initially a hazy, guitar-led stutter of asymmetric loops and garbled voices, it blooms into glossy FM electronics before showing its hand as a plastique slacker-rock shuffle that Lopatin hilariously edges towards elastic, tone-shifted drones. 'Locrian Midwest' sounds more like a '90s, pre-bubble Microsoft jingle, all hopeful chords and canned harpsichord flourishes, but refuses to take the Ferraro route, interrupting the flow with peculiar rhythms, baroque phrases and puzzling vocal loops. It's tempting to call the music cinematic, especially given Lopatin's extensive scoring work, but while he engages in intensely visual world-building, 'Again' is too dense and hyperactive to support that kind of description.
'The album ultimately reminds us more of Ryuichi Sakamoto's cheekiest '80s productions, where he would grab a plethora of musical styles and do whatever it took to match them with his oblique studio strategies. In that way, the album hews closer to Lopatin's influential 'Eccojams' era, sprucing up the formula with high-end techniques he's acquired along the way. 'Nightmare Paint' is a dizzy spiral of soft rock licks and chocolate box piano that begins with disquieting minimalist smacks and finishes on glossy, synth led excess. And 'Memories of Music' might be the most obvious highlight, stitching together mellotron vamps, hammond organ jams and deafening axe solos until it closes on a few seconds of urbane yacht rock. Let's call it what it is - prog - and all the better for it.