It’s nearly the end of two thousand and fourteen (FUCK) and I thought about writing another top 20 records of the year list.
And then I remembered that I didn’t actually finish last year’s.
So here’s the top 5:
5. Haxan Cloak – Excavation
4. Julia Holter – Loud City Song
3. The Knife – Shaking the Habitual
2. Tim Hecker – Virgins
1. Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
Daniel Lopatin keeps delivering, and on R Plus Seven there’s a real sense of him trying to do something more consciously important and high-concept than previous releases. The album is more cohesive – texturally – and more overt in its groping towards grandiose sentiment in a strange and disorientating digital environment.
The album features Lopatin’s definitive jittery structure that applies on both the macro and micro scale; clipped, repetitious vocal samples that dart about the mix are woven into a fabric that never quite settles in one place. A consistent mood is achieved from extremely fragmented components – the mark of excellent abstract art of any stripe – and our listening experience is one of almost constant tension and surprise.
Inside World, for example, prods at us with really strange synthetic vocal ‘ahs’ that seem to meander and peter out, before a sumptuous string line, backed by lush digital hiss, bleeds in and – just as we’ve adjusted to its relative calm – gives way to another series of bubbling, stop-start samples. The experience borders on frustration, but it keeps the ear focused and re-contextualises every little thing we hear into a singular revelatory moment.
The aesthetic is akin to James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual in its hyper-digital glossy sheen but the irony is stripped away to reveal some genuinely beautiful moments of euphoria, melancholy and sensuality. Zebra threatens to burst into a hands-in-the-air house track at any moment but becomes subsumed in a cascading barrage of synth layers and, once again, tantalisingly rejects the economy of set-up and pay-off for a more complex and jarring arrangement that revels in the diverse qualities of synthetic sounds.
There’s a conscious religiosity/spirituality in the effects that Lopatin utilises – uplifting choral vocals, hypnotic church organ pieces – and this feels entirely appropriate for the strange magic at work in this album. Lopatin has allowed the music to cover extraordinarily wide ground in its aural symbolism and, therefore, unlocked a sense of infinite complexity, primitive humanity and revelatory wonder in the journey through brief flashes of experience and sustained, elegiac, hymnal passages.
In utilising a truly odd combination of new-age meditation sounds, commercial muzak gloss, synthesised baroque horns, religious harmonics and jazzy erotica, Lopatin has possibly created something of a definitive album that plays on the still unknown nature of the relationship between ultra-consumerism, hyper-connectivity, spirituality, nature and humanity.
I had only written the review for Oneohtrix Point Never’s deserved winner, so there it is. I won’t bother writing about the others; I ain’t gonna waffle on about records that are a whole year old now. We’ve moved on. Andy Murray won.
Look ahead to a shimmering future with hundreds more end-of-year lists and global tragedies.
Who will it be this year?