Ford & Lopatin

Channel Pressure

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Childhood friends Daniel Lopatin (the esoterically inclined synth/noise producer Oneohtrix Point Never) and Joel Ford (of the electro-pop band Tigercity) introduced their musical partnership in 2010, issuing several releases under the moniker Games. For their full-length bow the following June, the duo switched their handle to a more businesslike pairing of surnames, but that doesn't mean they've quit playing games with their art. To the contrary: Channel Pressure's impishly playful, retro-futuristic sci-fi sensibility is evident right off the bat, with smirking song titles like "Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me)" and particularly the perfectly pitched cover image of a boy sleeping in the neon green glow of a giant glossy screen, in a bedroom crammed full of outmoded hi-tech gizmos, his outstretched arm reaching for a joystick. That visual key to the album's overarching conceptual framework based on a loose narrative set in the year 2082 about a teenager named Joey Rogers who succumbs to sinister subliminal voices transmitted through his TV while he's asleep. But the image also works more generally as an analog (pun fully intended) to the scintillating, synth-tastic sounds within these grooves. The Donnie Darko-ish details of the story line may remain fuzzy and elliptical (even with the lyric-sheet transcription of Ford's woozily robotified vocals), but the vibe is crystal clear and dead on: this is a precise aural equivalent of '80s future shock as filtered through the experience of a geeky, fantasy-prone teenager; presumably not unlike the boys Messrs. Ford and Lopatin once were. Musically, Channel Pressure evokes a wide range of the era's most plasticine sounds, blurring the boundaries between brittle digi-funk, gooey, soft-focus R & B, wonky fusion jazz, noodly electro-prog, and chintzy new age, but its primary mode is plush, pillowy, synth pop occasionally suitable for dancefloors (as on the dynamite single contenders "World of Regret," "Emergency Room," and "Joey Rogers"), but often more dreamy and cinematic (the swoony, mesmerizing "The Voices.") Obviously, revisiting the sounds of the '80s is hardly a new idea circa 2011 -- the approach here variously calls to mind contemporaries like M83, Dâm-Funk, and Com Truise, as well as any number of 8-bit, chillwave, and kosmiche-disco artists -- but Ford and Lopatin manage to make them feel surprisingly fresh, thanks to their obvious affection for the material and their equally devoted attention to songs (all the aforementioned numbers are, above all, massively catchy pop tunes) and sounds (Lopatin's amply demonstrated facility with evocative, granular, analog synth textures is definitely put to good use here, and a mixing assist from Prefuse 73's Guillermo Scott Herren probably doesn't hurt either.) Like another recent '80s-obsessed conceptually driven collaboration -- Neon Neon's woefully overlooked Stainless Style album -- Channel Pressure is equally enjoyable as a painstaking period re-creation drenched in neon nostalgia and nylon nausea, and as a piece of sterling (if decidedly warped) electronic pop music in its own right.

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