Dan Lopatin talks like a stoned professor, punctuating complicated musical theories with asides about weed and hanging out late night. Across a restaurant table on a rainy day, he’s explaining how some kids came up to him after watching an entire set of textured drone by his Oneohtrix Point Never project and told him that he sounded like Tool. “Obviously my music doesn’t sound like Tool, but that was their way of interfacing with it in a positive way,” Lopatin says. “Once they made that weird connect, they could get their psychedelic experience out of it. If those kids think that OPN sounds like Tool, then my theory is right. We are all way more similar than different.”
Even though it inexplicably reminds some people (or maybe just those kids) of prog metal, Oneohtrix Point Never also skirts new age music’s all-inclusive positive warmth, minus the cheese. It’s music for noise fans that need a break from nails scraping across their brain crevasses, and deep enough to center your chakras. It’s drug music for the clean and sober. Oneohtrix is both uncompromising and accessible, as long as you’re cool with music that has no chorus or drums. And, unexpectedly, it’s rapidly spreading to a more conventional audience. “I like when people come up to me and are like, ‘Dude your record between the hours of three and six, when I’m hanging out in my bedroom is, like, really fucking awesome,’” he says. “That’s better feedback to me than a lot of other kinds of feedback. I like the way people use my album.”
Lopatin’s most recent and accomplished Oneohtrix Point Never record, Returnal, is vast and powerful, but also may be his most useful. It’s an album to get lost in, engaging but not imposing. Keyboards wash against each other in a way that obliterates all memory of a particularly shitty day at the office or school. It’s a womb-like experience, enveloping your mind in a comforting, if somewhat robotic pocket. “I basically am always chasing this super enhanced stimulation from music,” Lopatin says. “You look at somebody like Thurston Moore. Is he a noise dude? A punky dude? Is he a free jazz dude? He’s a stimulation chaser, and I relate to that.”
Now Lopatin is chasing stimulation in an entirely different direction. He says he’s abandoning the longer compositions that have been his wheelhouse in favor of shorter pieces, stuff you can jam on a five block walk or while you’re still waking up. Or maybe you’ll devote hours and days and months to wrapping your head around it. Either way. Lopatin is basically offering a master class in making noise music universal, and if we study hard enough we might all end up wearing pastel robes and relaxing too hard, but it will totally be worth it.
Stream: Oneohtrix Point Never, Returnal