On ‘Age Of,’ Oneohtrix Point Never imagines a new kind of apocalypse

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Two months before the release of Age Of, his ninth studio album as Oneohtrix Point Never — depending on how you count — Daniel Lopatin uploaded a mysterious video titled “MYRIAD” to YouTube. Set against a harpsichord melody that falls from frenzy to a stilted calm, a smattering of visuals flash and twirl across the screen. As the images vanish, four caricatures remain seared onto the screen, glowing against the video’s starry background. Each represents one of the four historical epochs that make up Lopatin’s Age Of cycle: the paradiac Age of Ecco, the bountiful Age of Harvest, the techno-accelerationist Age of Excess and the apocalyptic Age of Bondage.

These figures — and the ages they represent — haunt and structure Age Of from outside the body of the album, though they are never named in its lyrics or track list. They act as its essential elements, serving as a guide through the chaos and sonic debris. True to its cyclical form, the album is not formally divided into four rigid sections representing each of the four epochs. Instead, the sounds of each epoch flow into those of the next.

The unifying characteristic of Age Of is its utter refusal of stability. The album’s major motion is, of course, a rotation through the four ages presented in the album’s artwork and promotional material. Yet each track reflects a miniature version of this same kinetic energy. Sonically and thematically, each song lands in a totally different place from where it began, though each participates in the framework of the cycle.

While Age Of is one project among many that imagines a post-human future, Lopatin’s take on a post-apocalyptic universe is downright innovative. In the imagination of Age Of, an apocalypse is at once total and forgiving. While humanity is demolished, its artifacts survive and continue to build histories of their own.

Lopatin’s other albums are also classified within the avant-garde rather than in a more rigidly defined genre. Yet, for the most part, the tracks on these albums grow and unfurl along an easy-to-follow pattern. Age Of, however, shatters this pattern. Even the album’s more straightforward tracks, such as opener “Age Of,” spiral outward in completely unpredictable directions. The seemingly simple song, built entirely from harpsichord melodies, becomes a completely immersive experience that ensnares the imagination.

“Black Snow,” the album’s first single, begins with Lopatin’s voice. His voice is slightly blurred around the edges but otherwise intact as it passes over humming instrumentals. At first glance, the song is a simple, conventionally structured affair. Yet as the song progresses, the noise and synths that float into the song begin to collide with Lopatin’s voice.

His voice is eventually enveloped entirely within that of Anohni, a prominent collaborator on the album known for her synthpop-coated activism. What begins as a peaceful track is quickly imbued with relentless anxiety. And with “Same,” another song featuring Anohni, the album’s cycle closes. Anohni acts as an AI left in the Age of Bondage long after humanity has perished. Her triumphant vocals weave the destruction of Bondage into the divine hope embodied by Ecco.

The album ends with “Last Known Image of a Song,” a simulacrum of easy listening music drawn from a faded memory of a memory. The song is reminiscent of Lopatin’s 2010 Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1, a tape that collaged together distorted versions of conventional pop songs. While the songs on Eccojams Vol. 1 were still easily recognizable as their source material, here, the idea of a traditional pop song is so entirely abstracted that the song is unrecognizable as such.

While Age Of breaks away from the conventions that Lopatin established within his discography both as Oneohtrix Point Never and under other pseudonyms, it is still intimately connected to a progression of Lopatin’s body of work — after all, the symbol representing Oneohtrix Point Never’s discography is featured on the album packaging. The album stands not in defiance of Lopatin’s other work, but as a critical extension of it, one that casts new light on the thematic and structural elements of even his other releases.

Sannidhi Shukla covers music. Contact her at [email protected].