One-man haunted house Oneohtrix Point Never has been bleeping on the Yes In My Backyard radar since his two-disc escape-from-sanity synth meditation Rifts dropped in 2009, leaving a bloody trail of John Carpenter zone-outs and Tangerine Nightmares. In the two years since, he’s been a leading light of altered analog abuse—invited by Animal Collective to play ATP, collaborating with Antony on a remix, and pulling in a critically adored side hustle as a member of nostalgiawave duo Ford & Lopatin. His third OPN CD release, Replica, is easily his most fleshed-out and alive, trading his floaty abysses for an action-packed venom fog: squelchy like Eric Copeland, noisy like Fennesz, and broiling with chattering “ghost vocals” recontextualized from compilations of advertisements scored from Videomercials, an online company that sells tapes of old TV shows minus the shows. The results are an uneasy marriage between a bad VHS dub of an Italian horror flick and a warped jazz fusion record thrifted from the Salvation Army. Below, download the title track, a mix of Satie pianos gently oozing alongside humming, buzzing synth collisions.
What inspired the song “Replica”?
I knew I wanted to take the idea of “mellow jazz” and do something a little different with it. Like the overall atmosphere of a dark ’70s ECM track, but kind of do it as a kind of circular, droning piece where everything is a little off. Like the sound of something malfunctioning at Jan Kongshaug’s studio. Distorted tape, overt tape splices, overdriven kotos, that sort of thing.
Why did you choose the name “Replica” for the song and album?
It’s the idea of the replica in culture as a way we deal with the decline of knowledge, or human knowledge going to waste because we’re not immortal. But it’s not a solution, it’s just a way of coping with those mysteries. But it’s also kind of funny when you think of it as a diminutive for replication. Because it’s like an artistic attempt at conveying the original, and not a copy, so there’s inherit failure to it. Which is amusing to me. Also there is a scene in Cave of Forgotten Dreams where they are discussing whether or not the drawings may have been drawn over at some point in the multi-thousand year span of time since they were created, that sentiment was really inspiring. In order to preserve heritage the object must change. Unlike the way that modernity perceived art objects as needing to be untainted. So one of my questions was like, what does renovation sound like? As opposed to innovation.
Also I had this hypothetical fantasy going while I was making it that it was the future and all broadcasted media is fragmented across the web, and humanity has only a vague idea of what role entertainment or advertising played; and I’m a archaeologist hired to reassemble whatever bits of audio can be found into replicas, but unbeknownst to me or anyone else I’m just making “art” because it’s so completely not a replica at all. Like it should be a commercial for fabric softener, but my approximation of that involves 20 other products and a synthetic Georgian folk choir.
Playing clean pianos is kind of a wild detour for you. What inspired this decision? I know you’ve been listening to Aphex Twin…
Yeah! When a piano is available to record I always get so excited. I grew up with a Samick upright piano that is how I started writing little melodies and ditties and stuff. And my favorite OPN track ever, called “Grief & Repetition,” was this thing I recorded at the piano practice rooms at my college. I just love it. But rarely have the ability to record it well. I guess the most recent time I did it before this record was with Antony.
What was different about going into the Mexican Summer studio as opposed to doing it at home?
I have to come out of my shell and work with other people, which is the biggest psychological difference because I am normally pretty private and get embarrassed if people hear me working through an idea or practicing. But mostly the technology there… it’s a really incredible studio, so the scale of what I was doing, sonically and mixwise got way bigger.
The album art is beautiful.
It’s a drawing from 1936 by Virgil Finlay, who was a pulp fiction/fantasy illustrator. It’s of a vampire looking in the mirror. So I thought that was an appropriate metaphor for the title, and just beautiful. Its barely noticeable but I like that he got pasta hair and he’s wearing a bow tie, which works because the record is a tragicomedy.
You’ve definitely talked about film scores in the past—did any in particular inspire the direction of the new record? It definitely seems more giallo than your past two!
Ha, thank you. Giallo is great. Pulp, or trash, or ephemera in general. That Finlay illustration is taken from a pulp comic from the ’30s called Weird Tales. Golden Smog was into Weird Tales too, haha… I’ve been obsessed with Tarantino since I was 12 years old and I look up to him, and the way he puts film-historic cliché on its head is so inspiring. He is a synthesizer. Like that to me is what I am here to do musically, if anything. Everything is semiotics to me, that’s how I function creatively. That’s why library records are so interesting to me. Everything about them is stock except for the names of the tracks, which are like suggested semiotic readings of the music, and they are so weird and filled with innuendo. Like what does the moment of persuasion, leading up to some lecherous shit is about to go down—What does that sound like? And why? And what is so insane and awesome about television and commercials and just downright bullshit stuff like that is that all those same underpinnings are there but they aren’t explicit, you’d have to magnify them. But all that stimuli is there; it’s just in between the cracks, and I wanted to make a record with the in between stuff. I’m happy with the record not because I think it’s a perfect record, but because I finally had the courage to embrace my process and be myself.
Oneohtrix Point Never plays Public Assembly with Oval and Burning Star Core on October 25.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 11, 2011