For music nerds who weren’t at SXSW last night, the Warsaw — a Polish community center turned rather-big venue in Greenpoint — was the place to be. Headlining was Daniel Lopatin, the producer who has gone by the name Oneohtrix Point Never since 2011. This tour has seen Lopatin, joined by longtime visual collaborator Nate Boyce, focusing on material from his most recent album, 2015’s Garden of Delete. The record departed from his earlier work by focusing on nu-metal sounds and live guitar, so I came to the show expecting noise, earplugs in hand.
Lopatin met these expectations at first, offering nearly an hour of harsh, fast, disjointed experimentations off Garden. Save for one or two brief interludes, there was nothing accessible or approachable about this part of the show, and the difficulty of listening quickly thinned out what began as an oversold room. At least a third of the crowd had left by the time Lopatin shifted the tone. They missed out.
Following the barrage of sound, he played some of his earlier compositions, including a few off 2013’s R Plus Seven, which featured stuttering samples of eerily familiar, breathy synths and digitized organ. With these sounds, the concept of Oneohtrix Point Never coalesced — it felt worth the time and noise we’d stood through to get there, and the context of the harsher earlier half enhanced the more accessible music. Lopatin addresses the dehumanizing and destabilizing force of technology, but unlike his contemporaries PC Music or Holly Herndon, he presents little to temper the darkness. Though the music he played later in his set was easier on the ears, he paired it with more unsettling visuals: The grainy video that played over his last song appeared to show men digging up a grave.
Lopatin’s genius is in juxtaposing childhood nostalgia with our dystopian present. His compositions often sound like the dreams of Redditors, shards of fantasy video game music mixed with gentle Eighties soft rock and the campy drama of nu-metal. Yet by combining these elements with incessant high-BPM drums and never allowing any one musical phrase to go on for long, the comfort of these references is impossible to grab on to, always fleeting, leaving the listener anxious and wanting. With Oneohtrix Point Never, Lopatin transposes how we experience living in the world today: Overwhelmed by images, sounds, and information, simultaneously experiencing everything and nothing.