Review: Oneohtrix Point Never @ Village Underground

Art & Culture

“I can’t listen to music too often. It affects one’s nerves, makes one want to say kind, stupid things, and stroke the heads of those who can create such beauty while living in this vile hell.”

– Vladimir Lenin

Oneohtrix Point Never – aka Daniel Lopatin – is in London to show off his A/V show for new album ‘Garden of Delete’. It’s a confrontational record that doubles down on the more ‘difficult’ aspects of his sound – aggressive synth barrages, harshly distorted vocals – and relegates all that soft ambient droney vaporwave stuff to the background. The album isn't even out until later this week, so I’m curious to see what the reaction will be.

Lopatin stands onstage, triggering samples and actually doing all the vocals live with the aid of some serious filters. He’s flanked by vertical screens that remind me of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The visuals displayed throughout the show are pretty gripping – internet detritus spliced with unsettling images and found footage (anyone who’s seen OPN's thoroughly disturbing Still Life video will understand). Combined with the music, it’s an overwhelming experience.

This is especially true thanks to the volume, which is seriously loud. It becomes something of a endurance test, occasionally made even more difficult by searingly high frequencies. I’m not sure my ears have been this battered since My Bloody Valentine got back together.

Everyone in the crowd seems trapped in their own personal headspace. Some people are seriously losing their shit, which I really hadn’t anticipated. One guy raises his palms to the ceiling as if welcoming the Second Coming, while another is headbanging like he’s at a Slayer concert.

The hands aloft guy takes advantage of a moment’s silence to yell out, “You are the fuckin’ man!” A beat. How will Lopatin react? He leans into the mic, vocal filter still on, and slowly says “YES I AM” in a voice that sounds like someone taking an electric whisk to a goblin’s trachea. Everyone laughs, relieved, and the atmosphere in the room is momentarily punctured. Lopatin breaks into a grin, before launching into thrash metal/Zen garden hybrid ‘I Bite Through It’.

Later on he returns for an encore of ‘Music for Steamed Rocks’. Delicious pudding after the previous hour’s onslaught. Closing my eyes and letting myself be enveloped by the soupy synth fog, that Lenin quote above springs to mind. (Well, an approximation of it anyway). Richard D James aside, I can think of few artists whose music achieves such extremes of beauty and terror as OPN's.