I’m sure most folks when you mention the music of summer think of The Beach Boys, Bananarama, Ice Cube, BTO, or something produced by the likes of Mark Ronson or Paul Williams. Me? I think Oneohtrix Point Never. In particular, the album Drawn and Quartered. Nothing gets my summer sunburn going more than the hazy swaths of dreamy synth that come rolling into my ears when I listen to this album. I feel that this record is Daniel Lopatin at his most sublime.
So what does a heavy ambient synth record have to do with summer? Well since we’re talking about me the reasoning is ridiculous, but I’ll try to explain the best I can.
So a couple of summers ago I started walking and running after work out in my neighborhood and an adjoining neighborhood across the street. I found myself getting pretty bored in the gym and the outdoors seemed like a great place to work up a sweat and have a view while I was doing it. It was a really hot summer back in 2014 and during these scorchers I found myself either listening to Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, Bernard Szajner’s Visions Of Dune, or Rudiger Lorenz’ Invisible Voices. It was late July and early August and I was deep in the heavy synth albums. For some strange reason they seemed to mesh well with my hot afternoon walks. It was as if the sounds I heard seemed to come directly up from the pavement in waves of heat. The music lent itself well to these hour-long excursions in the sweltering Midwest afternoons.
Around this same time I’d started getting into Oneohtrix Point Never. I’d tried out their R Plus Seven album but hadn’t yet found my way in. I jumped back to their first album Betrayed In The Octagon and immediately fell for that album. Working my way through Daniel Lopatin’s catalog I came across a couple albums that were sort of off the radar. The Fall Of Time and Drawn And Quartered. These two albums seemed to live completely on their own, and had a meditative vibe. They both have the vibe of some long lost lo fi sci fi flick. But that summer it was Drawn And Quartered that truly won me over.
Drawn And Quartered fit right in with my afternoon walk soundtracks. As I made my way through the still developing Hawthorn neighborhood the many hilly and empty lots seemed like hillsides of some long lost and abandoned civilization. It was like afternooon walks on Mars. The sun beating down on me, sweat soaking my beat up old Nike hat I made my way through this strange and vast environment that folks call “the suburbs” as Daniel Lopatin’s musical kaleidoscope burrowed into my brain.
“Lovegirls Precinct” opens the album and is quick and to the point. Short and rounded synth jabs percolate to the surface and make their way to your ears like a Casio version of Steve Reich. It’s a warm feeling that gives way to the excellent “Ships Without Meaning”. It’s nearly 10 minutes of ambient bliss. The sound is reminiscent of water rolling across a flattened beach. Wave after wave eloquently rolls onto the shore. Within the heat of an afternoon walk this one really calms the body down. The music opens ones head to let ideas out as well as letting them in. “Terminator Lake” does put me in mind of James Cameron’s 80s sci fi classic, albeit at a distance. It’s hypnotic and spacey, with just a hint of dread in those bass-y synth notes. “Transmat Memories” sounds like a android chase through some futuristic city. Flying in chrome pods through a Fritz Lang-like landscape in order to escape extermination in the great incinerators. It’s a jumpy and boppin’ kind of sound throughout. “A Pact Between Strangers” is a lulling piece of music; a feeling of longing and buried desires with the sound of synthetic wildlife breaking through the surface. “When I Get Back From New York” is a glorious and epic piece that runs close to 17 minutes. If you’re at all familiar with Sinoia Caves then you’ll understand the feel of this track. It’s a dulling pulse throughout as whizzes and wheezes come in and out of the mix. The heat of a summer day meshes with the noise here quite well. Sound and feel come together almost perfectly within this 17 minutes. “I Know It’s Taking Pictures From Another Plane(Inside Your Sun)” takes you completely by surprise as it’s a short acoustic number with Lopatin singing. A complete 180 degrees from the rest of the album.
I find Daniel Lopatin to be an extremely interesting guy. The music of Oneohtrix Point Never took a serious turn with 2010s Returnal, marking a noisier and loop-based sound. Since then he’s honed in on a completely unique musical trip which I’ve grown to love. Last year’s Garden Of Delete felt like another turning point that melded all aspects of Oneohtrix Point Never into something wholly different and modern sounding. Like alien dance music, or otherworldly EDM. Still, I do tend to gravitate towards the older, more ambient OPN. Betrayed In The Octagon, The Fall Of Time, Russian Mind, and of course Drawn And Quartered.
My afternoon walks in the Midwest heat wouldn’t be the same without them.