Lopatin’s Electronic Textures Undanceable Yet Enjoyable

Steve Goodwin

Reconstructing electronic music live can be a tricky proposition. Often what sounds great in the studio can’t be recreated on a stage, disappointing eager audiences. In the wake of the release of his album R Plus Seven last fall, electronic musician Daniel Lopatin, known by the stage name Oneohtrix Point Never, came to perform at the ’Sco last Saturday, and he was mostly free from the usual pitfalls.

Lopatin is known for making harsh, weird and yet often surprisingly beautiful music, so it was difficult to know what to expect from a live performance. The venue was packed with curious students forgoing usual weekend partying for a night of uniquely undanceable music. Fortunately, those who came expecting a strange yet wonderful sonic experience were ultimately satisfied.

Lopatin’s stage presence was extremely unassuming. Standing behind a table covered in hardware and lit by a single dim blue light, he allowed the music to speak for itself, unmediated by any other real performative elements. It was clear he was responsible for creating the sounds — his hands were certainly moving — but his equipment was tilted away from the audience in such a way that it was impossible to tell what was being done. Though Lopatin has performed with visual projections in the past, he eschewed all visual elements in this show, but it didn’t matter. The point was the music itself, and it needed no assistance in holding the listeners’ attention.

Though Lopatin’s motions were slight, the sounds they produced were huge: intense washes of sound, grating textures, sudden swells and deep bass. While keeping the sound textures varied enough to be interesting, the music was surprisingly pleasant, sometimes even soothing, with synths and vocal samples in heavy use. But the music was also playful, darting from quiet to loud, refusing to let the listener simply lose themself in the chaos. It seemed there was a deeper underlying disorder to the music, a desire to constantly thwart expectations. Massive layers of static built up into what the audience expected to be an epic conclusion before grinding to a sudden halt with a sound that could only be described as music swallowing itself.

A few heads bobbed awkwardly in the crowd as Lopatin rained torrents of sound — residual reminders that this was in fact a Saturday night at the ’Sco. But the music, even at its most melodic and rhythmic moments, was intentionally fragmented, preventing the listener from ever getting too comfortable. On a rendition of “Chrome Country,” one of the more accessible songs from R Plus Seven, Lopatin played with the loops from the original song while reconstructing it live, dropping the beat for a moment or two before immediately pulling it back out of the mix.

Eschewing the common practice in electronic music of performing an unbroken, transitioned set, Lopatin paused between songs, allowing for applause and giving the audience a clear sense of distinct track breaks. The audience was enthusiastic, and when the set ended at 12:15 a.m., many were heard complaining that the music had ended too soon. Others complained about Lopatin’s lack of stage presence, and some of those familiar with his body of work sounded disappointed that the music wasn’t weird enough, while others found it too strange.

However, most people in attendance seemed excited about what they had witnessed. It may have been a confusing performance, but Lopatin’s artistry and command of his sound was undeniable. It may not have been everyone’s favorite show of the year, but ultimately Oneohtrix Point Never curated a successful night of absorbing, beautiful music that innovated on a sometimes uncomfortable form.