The first time I heard Daniel Lopatin’s music, produced under the alias Oneohtrix Point Never, was in the cripplingly 'netty (NSFW) video piece titled still life (betamale), made in collaboration with visual artist Jon Rafman. Originally released on 4chan, the project captures the duality of a life lived online, juxtaposing the infinitude of the virtual worlds we’ve created with the increasing paralysis of the users’ physical bodies that navigate it.
The video is sick but insightful. As images of furries and manga porn flash across the screen, a disembodied female voice warns, “As you look at the screen, it is possible to believe you are gazing into eternity. You see the things that were inside you... The original site of the imagination... You can't find your way out of the maze you are convinced has been solely created for you.”
While the video felt like a relic found somewhere in the deep net, it’s a space Lopatin has returned to inhabit for his new album Garden of Delete, released last week on Warp Records.
Coming off his recent tour with Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden, Lopatin wanted to make something different than his existing output. Redirecting his characteristic nostalgia for the fantasy-scapes of late-80s videogames towards a grungier, more grounded past, Garden of Delete draws from an eclectic array of sounds—from stadium metal to jazz guitar—to create an album that is as polymorphic as ever, yet that feels distinctly more human than ever before.
Perhaps this shift follows a turn away from an interest in the expansiveness of the internet towards an interest in the subcultures that inhabit it. In a conversation with The Creators Project, Lopatin said that he is attracted to fan cultures that exist online for the tribal tendencies that are able to emerge within them, despite their constituents never actually interacting face to face.
Since signing to Warp for his last record, R Plus Seven, Lopatin has become more aware of Oneohtrix Point Never’s fans than ever before. Letting his label attempt to reach new audiences on their own terms, he saw the promotion for Garden of Delete as “a way to get [his] diehard fans into some of the... more allegorical ideas about the album.”
Following the album’s completion, Lopatin began making websites and characters as a way to continue to build upon the album in peripheral ways as he awaited its release. What began as a cryptic questionnaire with a teenage, acne-scarred alien named Ezra, posted to his website with the title tothefans.pdf, eventually led to various active Twitter personas, a second video collaboration with Jon Rafman, and a Blogspot run by the fictional band Kaoss Edge with posts dating back to 1994.
Built around music made by frequent collaborator and visual artist Nate Boyce, and listed in the questionnaire as one of Garden of Delete‘s influences, the “hypergrunge” band’s k-hole of a website points those who are willing to dig to a loner’s 1993 diary of his misadventures at Lollapalooza, an archive of images of abandoned Polish buildings, a PDF of philosopher Julia Kristeva’s seminal essay, "Powers of Horror," and various other images, sounds, and poems of similarly abject ends.
Not unlike Kristeva’s text on the seduction of the abject—which Lopatin praises for its emphasis on corporeal form and the anxieties that arise when our conceptions of such are disrupted—Garden of Delete similarly writhes away from any sort of easy categorization, its best moments found when different musical styles messily morph and ooze out of each other in unpredictable, yet titillating ways.
Collaging ambient, introspective transitions with explosive, almost droning spurts of metal, Skrillex-esque vocals, and genuinely melodic guitar sections, Garden of Delete manages to move between the kitsch of bad EDM and the abrasiveness of death metal to flirt with the lines we maintain between “good” and “bad” music. The result is something that is as nebulous and repulsive as Ezra’s face, yet that remains both fascinating and exhilarating to listen to.
Click here to order Oneohtrix Point Never's Garden of Delete (Warp).