From the way Oneohtrix Point Never's early albums felt like vintage synth oddities to the '90s TV commercial-sampling Replica and the alt-rock-inspired Garden of Delete, Daniel Lopatin's music has always recontextualized sounds that seem to define an era. Where he previously confined himself to exploring a single period of time or combining a handful of elements, on Age Of it feels like he recombines the entire history of music in profound -- and surprisingly accessible -- ways. (In retrospect, his background as an archival science grad student makes perfect sense.) On the ninth Oneohtrix Point Never album, Lopatin makes a strong case for the pointlessness of stylistic boundaries. The title's incompleteness reflects the impossibility of keeping an art form as malleable as music within tightly contained genres, and the album itself sounds like an anthology from an alternate timeline. Lopatin immediately begins dismantling preconceptions on "Age Of" by highlighting the similarities the harpsichord -- one of the album's major motifs -- has with Eastern instruments such as the koto and with rapid-fire electronic melodies. From there, things just get more unpredictable, but Lopatin never feels like he's dabbling. This is partly because of his considerable experience with sampling and recombining sounds, and partly because of the skilled collaborators (including Prurient, Anohni, Kelsey Lu, James Blake, and Eli Keszler) who help make this the widest-ranging OPN album yet. Lopatin matches the album's ambition with plenty of emotion, building on the depths he uncovered on Garden of Delete. Even more so than on that album, Age Of features honest-to-goodness songs, and they're some of the brightest highlights: Lopatin's processed vocals take the lead on the poignant android folk ballad "Babylon" and the moody, mutant R&B of "Black Snow" and "The Station" (originally a demo for Usher). He also finds time to riff on OPN's own history on "Manifold," where the plangent synth melody feels like a further mutation of the works collected on Rifts; "Toys 2" dips into R Plus Seven's gooey '80s soundscapes; and "myriad.industries" nods to Myriad, an installation piece that reflected another facet of Lopatin's fascination with epochs and other constructs just begging to be defied. Tracks such as these take the album into its more overtly conceptual second half effortlessly. Though the Anohni collaborations "Same" and "Still Stuff That Doesn't Happen" seem to drop listeners into a futuristic opera nearing its climax, the effect is more thrilling than jarring. The same can be said for the album as a whole: as Lopatin scorns arbitrary boundaries, he gives his music exciting new shapes. Even if its point is to defy easy categorization, it's not difficult to call an album as multi-layered and fascinating as Age Of a landmark work.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares