A compilation gathered from Daniel Lopatin's first three Oneohtrix Point Never albums (2007's Betrayed in the Octagon and 2009's Zones Without People and Russian Mind), Rifts presents a triptych that defined his distinctive approach to drone-based electronic music. As sprawling as this two-and-a-half-hour collection is and as wide-ranging as its tracks are, it's also one of the purest examples of Oneohtrix Point Never's aesthetic, full of drones that feel either weightless or massive, punctuated by synth arpeggios and the occasional found sound or tweaked vocal. Lopatin built quite a world with these three albums, one inspired by the soulful, searching side of science fiction -- many of the song titles here feel like they could be the names of forgotten classics of '70s and '80s sci-fi films and literature -- as well as forebears ranging from Tangerine Dream to Boards of Canada. The warmth of Lopatin's analog synths on these tracks rightly drew comparisons to the latter act, and the mix of nostalgic tones and unsettling moods often suggests a more expansive, ambient-leaning version of the duo's darkest album, Geogaddi (and had a similar way of letting its shadowy sounds sneak in and mess with listeners' emotions on an almost subliminal level). However, Rifts' tracks have even more range, spanning the cavernous darkness of "Woe Is the Transgression II," which alternates between feral whoops and passages of shimmering drones layered upon each other like whale calls; suffocating synth workouts like "Transmat Memories"; and fleeting moments of beauty like "Months," which add poignancy to its vastness. Rifts also has a remarkable balance to it; for every epic like "When I Get Back from New York," which builds from blippy arpeggios into more moody and abrasive terrain over the course of 16 minutes, a shorter track like "Laser to Laser" distills OPN's sound into something not exactly pop, but certainly a lot more immediate. Similarly, Lopatin manages to run the emotional gamut with "Grief and Repetition," a funereal melody engulfed in a fog of drones, and "Hyperdawn," which is the track that would play as the credits rolled if Rifts were the score to a sci-fi film with a happy ending. Fittingly, the title tracks of the albums this collection was drawn from are among the defining moments, showcasing Lopatin at his most retro and most striking: "Zones Without People" has an almost sinister feel to its clinical serenity, while "Russian Mind"'s dense arpeggios are more than a little paranoid in their intensity and "Betrayed in the Octagon" evokes Blade Runner not just in its pulsing synths but its hazy, half-remembered melancholy. Unabashedly ambitious yet nuanced, Rifts is equally compelling listening whether taken in small chunks or in its entire massive sweep.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2