Garden of Delete

Oneohtrix Point Never

(CD - Warp #WARPCD 266)

Review by Heather Phares

Oneohtrix Point Never's Daniel Lopatin is the kind of artist you expect to keep evolving, even if exactly how he evolves on each album is unpredictable. That said, he still throws listeners a few curves on Garden of Delete, an album inspired by his adolescence and his 2014 tour with Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden. Any expectations that this is OPN's "guitar album" are quickly dashed: Lopatin's palette is far wider-ranging, incorporating aspects of his previous albums (as well as a nod to his work as Chuck Person on "ECCOJAMC1") and elements of metal, trance, R&B, and Top 40 pop that, when combined, feel unmistakably like Oneohtrix Point Never. The way he transforms different sounds and eras into something nostalgic yet new has always been one of his greatest strengths. He goes one better on Garden of Delete, imbuing these songs with powerful, wide-ranging emotions. "Animals"' lugubrious melody is mournful to the point of uneasiness, while "No Good"'s deceptively soothing flow and distorted vocoder make it a self-destructing love song. As dense as R Plus Seven was cleanly sculpted, there's a lot to unpack within Garden of Delete, including its title: a phrase that suggests the meticulous task of editing music as well as the union of creation and destruction (and shortens to G.O.D.), it's the perfect mission statement for an album that combines past and present in surprising, and surprisingly organic ways. While "Lift"'s crystalline melody is classic OPN, the vocals that dominate the album add to its personal feel -- even if they're courtesy of the software instrument Chipspeech. Lopatin uses the software to give voice to Ezra, an alien who figured heavily in Garden of Delete's promotional campaign and who lends the album its emotional arc. We first hear his slurred tones on "Intro," but it's "Ezra" that offers a proper introduction to the character as well as the album's scope: the track's rapid shifts between heavily processed alt-metal guitars, stark, glistening synths, dueling vocals, and frenetic arpeggios feel like extraterrestrial mood swings. Shorter songs like "SDFK" and fragmented excursions like "Mutant Standard," which combines a looping melody that morphs from morose to triumphant with vertiginous atmospheres, only add to the feeling that everything on Garden of Delete is teetering on the brink. Lopatin uses his music's porous boundaries brilliantly, whether he's fusing molten R&B with death metal's growls and rapid-fire kick drums on the standout "Sticky Drama," crafting dizzying juxtapositions and edits on "I Bite Through It"'s violent melancholy, or naming one of the album's most beautiful ambient pop moments after the child abuse documentary Child of Rage. These fascinating dualities make Garden of Delete some of Lopatin's most intellectually engaging music as well as some of his funniest, darkest, and most cathartic.

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