Vague Memories of Oneohtrix Point Never:
A Prelude

I am completely obsessed with Magic Oneohtrix Point Never at the moment. Daniel Lopatin’s synthesising of just about every lesson learned over the last ten years of his career has produced a deeply rewarding and evocative album. I have a lot to say about it.

As a prelude, I wanted to take a little trip down vague-memory lane.

Every time I hear the music of Oneohtrix Point Never, I’m transported back to 2011. No matter how much further Daniel Lopatin develops, explores and further mutates his own sound, my mind goes back to then. I can’t help it. It’s an embarrassing Pavlovian response. Memories are powerful things.

They are also untrustworthy. The first time I saw OPN live was at the Animal Collective-curated All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival in May 2011 — six months before the release of his breakout album Replica. Before thinking back to that time in 2020 and checking my dates, I was positive that Replica was the first record I heard; in retrospect, the earworms of Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1 must have already established OPN as a sonic presence. The track “Angel”, later re-released as part of the aptly-named Memory Vague A/V project, is a diffuse cultural touchstone in this regard. It samples my favourite Fleetwood Mac song, whilst also feeling like a refracted response to Bullion’s “Crazy Over You” that similarly captivated me in 2010. (It was my ringtone for ages — remember ringtones?)

Where Replica fits into this lineage is unclear. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter. Chronologically, it follows the Chuck Person project, and yet the Eccojams feel like a series of somewhat solid objects siphoned off the top of Replica‘s more primordial soup. These vague and templex memories are more seductive than the reality. The fine line between remembering and hallucinating disintegrates.

It doesn’t help matters that the period from 2010 to 2013, when the OPN project truly came into its own, are perhaps my most formative years. 2011, in particular, straddles my first and the start of my second year at university. Replica was a constant companion from that year onwards. It soundtracked so much of my mundane student existence — I remember listening to it on repeat whilst playing copious amounts of Skyrim — as well as a number of almost spiritual experiences that punctured the mundanity.

At All Tomorrow’s Parties, for instance, my housemates and I hung out with the photographer Jason Evans, a lecturer at our university who we idolised. On the night OPN was set to perform, we drank a lot of vodka and smoked a lot of weed at his chalet. (I think Dan Snaith from Caribou came by at some point?) (Also his neighbours were Alan and Mimi from Low.) In a thick haze, we wandered around the pavilion, laughing and playing games, in this weird twilight world of wide-eyed students drifting alongside their cultural heroes. Then we went to see OPN’s set.

On arriving at the venue, we were too far gone to stand for the entire set and listen. We lay down on the floor and let the sounds wash over us. Sara Rejaie took the three pictures below — many thanks to Sara for digging them out for me the other day; Jason and my housemate Michael are first, followed by our crowd neighbours as the lying-down trend caught on.

My memories of the set itself are patchy. All I remember is the intensity of the experience and being captivated by closed-eye visuals as the carpet ended up on the ceiling and the whole world stuttered to the sounds of “Andro”. It was transcendent.

A few months later, once Replica had been released and I had probably spent too much time in its company, OPN returned to the UK for a small tour. I caught the show at the Cube Cinema in Bristol. Sober this time, with no closed-eye visuals for entertainment, Nate Boyce’s backdrop was more than intense enough. The cinema felt like a perfect venue too, considering the composition work Lopatin would go on to do with the Safdie brothers, prefiguring this psychedelic transition from screen memories to real memories to real screens.

I remember the cinema felt like a pressure cooker. I was fidgety and found myself enthralled, if overwhelmed. When the show was over, I shot out into the night like a bottle rocket, navigating my way slowly back to Bristol’s bus station, to get the bus back to Wales. Barely out of the venue, I found myself caught up in the gravitation pull of a nearby housing estate, chasing a fox around in the night with my ostentatious camera flash illuminating the strangest of colours in this otherwise dark and wintery world.

I’ve gutted to have not seen OPN live since then — especially the MYRIAD tour, that passed through London whilst I was there but it sold out by the time I realised. Here’s hoping after coronatime is over we can get back to a venue sometime soon, not just for the sounds but the striking experiences that OPN seems to conjure in his orbit — Silver Surfer of the Trash Stratum.

10,000 words on OPN to follow…

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