Finally, most astonishingly, is "‡Preyouandi," the closing track, a shatteringly alien terrain made largely out of glassy percussion sounds, densely clustered cascades fed through echo and delay. On first listen, I pictured an ice shelf disintegrating, a beautiful, slow-motion catastrophe. This "blues for global warming" interpretation turns out to be completely off-base, but it's still the sort of music that gets your mind's eye reeling with fantastical imagery.

"Drugs!"
Courtesy Four Paws Media
"Drugs!"

Both "Returnal" and "‡Preyouandi" contain textural tints that explicitly echo the hypervisual sounds and visionary concepts of Jon Hassell, who, back in the '80s, explored what he called "Fourth World Music," a polyglot sound mixing Western hi-tech and ethnic ritual musics. "I wanted to make a world-music record," says Lopatin. "But make it hyperreal, refracted through not really being in touch with the world. Everything I know about the world is seen through Nova specials, Jacques Cousteau, and National Geographic." He explains that the stuff that indirectly influenced Returnal were things like the unnaturally vivid and stylized tableaux you might see in that kind of documentary or magazine article: 100 Sufis praying in a field, say. "So I'm painting these pictures, not of the actual world, but of us watching that world."

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