Oneohtrix Point Never : Good Time Soundtrack

If you told me that Daniel Lopatin was actually from another planet or dimension that wouldn’t surprise me a bit. The music he creates as Oneohtrix Point Never is otherworldly electronic in nature. It’s progressed from drone-y ambient on his debut Betrayed In The Octagon to the more deep space pop ambitions of 2015s Garden Of Delete. From building mystique and mood in his songs to the ghostly production that goes to help create the OPN worlds on each of his excellent albums, Lopatin is one of the most unique and original voices working in electronic music.

Getting to the point that OPN is at, one may wonder where to go from here. Daniel Lopatin went the film scoring route, first working with Brian Reitzell on Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring and now on The Safdie Brothers’ Good Time. Oneohtrix Point Never always seemed like a good way to go to score a film and this excellent LP proves it. It’s intense, propulsive, and one of the best albums of the year.

If you’re at all familiar with OPN, then you know sort of what to expect when hitting play. Lopatin’s film work doesn’t stray too far from his albums. Listening to albums like Replica and R Plus Seven it’s easy to imagine them scoring some imaginary film. Maybe some dystopian sci fi flick, or some hedonistic, neon-lit trek through a city night life. Good Time is sort of like the latter. It concentrates on two brothers, one of which has a learning disability and is caught by the cops after a robbery attempt. The other brother spends a night trying to locate the funds that would pay his brother’s bail. It seems to be one long panic attack, and Oneohtrix Point Never seems to have scored that attack beautifully.

There’s some great contrast throughout this LP. Something like “Hospital Escape/Access-A-Ride” is sleek and moves along like slow burning dread, while “Bail Bonds” starts with some of the film’s dialogue that begins to warp and melt into a propulsive synth. It dissolves into a distorted beat and what sounds like wavering guitar. “Entry To White Castle” has a Tangerine Dream/Michael Mann feel to it. There’s a real 80s vibe. “Romance Apocalypse” once again summons the great Tangerine Dream here, bringing to mind their work on Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark. “The Acid Hits” has the bizarro musical insanity brewing in it that Lopatin cooked up on his own excellent album Returnal.

Daniel Lopatin does what you’d hope he would do, and that’s make an excellent Oneohtrix Point Never record. He does that easily. I haven’t seen Good Time yet, but I can only imagine how well this record and the film work together. For me, though, the absolute highlight is the final track “The Pure And The Damned”. It’s a collaboration with Iggy Pop and it’s pure and weird and beautiful. It’s probably the most upfront song Lopatin has ever written. Pop gives one of his most earnest and honest performances in years. It’s a piano-driven song with lyrics that evoke such huge emotions and this child-like honesty that I think encapsulates the relationship between the brothers in the film. It’s hard to describe. It’s just beautiful.

Daniel Lopatin continues to explore and reinvent his musical alter ego known as Oneohtrix Point Never. His Good Time Soundtrack is one of the most engaging listens of the year; it’s dark, intimate, bombastic, and it beats wildly with an analog heart.

8.8 out of 10

 

 

Papir : V

The Danish trio Papir have always sounded much larger than you’d expect three guys to sound. With just the guitar/bass/drums rock trio standard set up, these guys make a mountain of sound. At times brash and fuzz-covered, other times dreamy and atmospheric, Nicklas Sørensen, Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen, and Christian Becher Clausen cover terrain as diverse as psych rock, post-rock, and even moments veering on progressive. Their tenure with El Paraiso Records gave our ears classics like Stundum, IIIIV , and their explosive Live At Roadburn that showed they are a force to be reckoned with live. These records set the stage for the trio from Copenhagen to seriously blow minds(and eardrums) for years to come.

Papir have returned from a three year hiatus with a brand new album and a brand new record label. Papir’s V is everything you’d hope from them and more. A double LP that spans over 90 minutes, V is a heady, expansive journey into the cosmos and back. Grab some headphones and a couple beers and get set to take flight.

Papir’s move from the mighty El Paraiso Records to Stickman Records has done nothing to quell the trio’s heady, hazy musical atmospherics. The record is seven songs clocking in over 90 minutes and is easily their most epic set yet. This is their most consistently dreamy collection of songs as well. At times there’s moments of Krautrock repetition(“V.II”), grand moments of blissed-out psychedelia(“V.III”), and epic musical statements(“V.VII”), but nothing ever gets into overdrive here. There are a few moments where Sørensen pushes his amps into overdrive territory, but for the most part this is a groove-driven affair. The rhythm section of Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen and Christian Becher Clausen lay down some solid groove foundations which allow the guitars to float above the proceedings and go where they may.

That’s not to say this isn’t a heavy record.

On the contrary, this album is like looking into some unknown abyss. It’s a beautiful and overwhelming experience. There are moments when everything melts together into one cavernous sound, as if the band are performing in a black hole. I liken it to my experience with vast, open spaces; back when I used to ride rollercoasters and would often go to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio for the non-pharmaceutical thrills. Sitting amidst the gray, ominous waters of Lake Erie, those slow crawls up that first great hill on the Magnum XL-200 were both exhilarating and horrifying. Clear days were okay, but overcast days the lake looked like this endless expanse that would devour you whole in an instant. And at night, the giant ferris wheel sat on what seemed to be the edge of the world. Lights flickered as you were cast up into the night sky to look over into Lake Erie’s beckoning calls. V has moments of that overwhelming vastness.

“V.III” starts out like some great post-rock anthem and then seems to slowly dissipate into that black abyss. “V.IV” is reminiscent of the lighter moments of Stundum. It feels like an early morning buzz as the crisp air hits your lungs and the day unfolds before your eyes. There’s a jazz quality to the drumming here. It’s like Tony Williams getting weird with NEU! in 1973. Opener “V.I” is like a hand guiding you through a technicolor maze. It’s breezy and takes flight many times, with the guitars getting nice and gritty at moments. Nicklas Sørensen seems to be channeling the great Michael Rother at times with his fluid guitar notes. This really is the perfect opener for an epic album like this.

Papir have never come across as a band that feels they need to rush through a song. They start a musical journey and explore like free jazz pioneers did before them. Their music is the wandering kind. You put on headphones, drop the needle, and just go where the music takes you. V is their most expansive set yet, giving us seven worlds to explore and get lost in. And they are beautiful worlds, indeed.

8.4 out of 10

 

Nine Inch Nails : Add Violence EP

Say what you will about Trent Reznor, but the guy over the last four years has been in constant creative motion. Nine Inch Nails’ 2013 return with Hesitation Marks was met with equal parts cheers and jeers. Cheers for a guy coming out of a 4 year NIN shutdown to a solid return to form. Jeers for folks that felt he was softening and repeating old motifs. Me? I liked the album. He never came across to me as some poet laureate, so I could forgive the average in the lyrics department. But his compositional, arranging, and studio skills were as tight as ever. From there he scores three films with Atticus Ross(Gone Girl(2014), Before The Flood(2016), Patriot’s Day(2016)), becomes some mogul/music wizard dujour at Beats and helped curate Apple Music, and at the end of 2016 he and Ross put out the NIN EP Not The Actual Events. The latter was released with the promise of two more EPs to follow later in 2017, making it a trilogy of sorts. That EP was promising, with some biting NIN aggression and experimental twists and turns that while wasn’t mind blowing was a welcome addition to the NIN discography(while wetting the appetites of NIN fans everywhere.)

We’re in the middle of 2017 and that second EP has arrived. Add Violence dials down the angst and turns up the oscillation a bit. It feels better conceived and fluid than its predecessor, while still retaining the wily spirit of classic NIN.

Opening track “Less Than” gets all early 80s bouncy synth with the help of some catchy keyboard lines and synsonic-sounding drums. It’s like Reznor dropped the needle on Black Celebration and Power, Corruption & Lies and got heavy-handed with the Kahlua he was pouring into his protein shakes. This is the loosest and most fun NIN has sounded since Year Zero. “The Lovers” is the best track on here. It’s dark, brooding, and yes, sexy. Jittery rhythms, Pong-like synth notes, and menacing piano zig zag through the mix as Reznor turns up the longing in his vocal spots. This track feels like the very best of Reznor and Ross’ creative power. It builds; ascending then descending like a menacing tower on the horizon. I imagine playing Tetris on a grainy black and white TV with this as the soundtrack. Odd, but fitting. “This Isn’t The Place” has an electronic swing to it. It’s decent, but seems to meander a bit too long. “Not Anymore” sounds like a cross between Suicide and the Art of Noise, but with Reznor ad-libbing lyrics over a distorted bass line. The song goes into a frenzied explosion of fuzz in the chorus. “The Background World” moves along for nearly 12 minutes. First opening with a smooth, familiar groove that you easily fall into. Soon enough you notice something becomes slightly off. A skip in the song. As the track moves along it slowly falls into a deep distortion as that skip becomes more prominent. The track falls into an abyss of white noise before falling into some other dimension.

Add Violence resonates more than its predecessor. It feels more cohesive, like Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross sat down and mapped out some songs with a sonic thru-line. They kept it more of a blippy, electronic affair with a healthy dose of their rich atmosphere. The result is a sweet shot of electronic urgency.

7.9 out of 10

 

 

Nine Inch Nails – The Fragile : Deviations 1

So right off the bat it must be said that this very unique version of Trent Reznor’s 1999 masterpiece ode to mental breakdown and substance abuse is for a very limited number of Nine Inch Nails fans. Of those fans there’s two kinds of fans that will want this: the hardcore completists and the soundtrack fans. The casual window shoppers, the mild interest guys and gals, and that one guy that never “got it” after Pretty Hate Machine need not apply. This one isn’t for you. Thanks for stopping by, though. Sure, take a beer with you. See you later…

Okay, now that we’re alone let’s talk about The Fragile : Deviations 1.

So back in December, along with the release of Not The Actual Events, it was announced that a definitive version of Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile was being released. It was meticulously remastered by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. As a huge fan of The Fragile I was pretty excited about this prospect. As well as the original album, there was also an oddity announced in The Fragile : Deviations 1. It’s an instrumental version of the 1999 record. The album was completely remixed and remastered as instrumental fare. According to NIN.com:

A very special limited edition of The Fragile is now available for preorder in the NIN store. This unique version of NIN’s classic record was created by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and features 37 instrumental, alternate and unreleased tracks, many of which have never been heard before anywhere.”

Reznor explains, ‘The Fragile occupies a very interesting and intimate place in my heart. I was going through a turbulent time in my life when making it and revisiting it has become a form of therapy for me. As an experiment, I removed all the vocals from the record and found it became a truly changed experience that worked on a different yet compelling level. The Fragile: Deviations 1 represents Atticus and I embellishing the original record with a number of tracks from those sessions we didn’t use before. The result paints a complimentary but different picture we wanted to share.

Not being what I’d call a hardcore NIN fan, but also not a mild occasional listener, I was intrigued by the prospect of an instrumental version of the first NIN record I sort of really got into. Two years prior to The Fragile I’d totally fallen for NINs “The Perfect Drug” off David Lynch’s Lost Highway soundtrack, so in 1999 I was ready to fall for a NIN record. After a day or two of mulling it over in December I decided to throw caution to the wind and I preordered this behemoth of a set(it’s 4 LPs at $80.)

According to their website it was supposed to ship in April of 2017. April came and went. As did May and June. I found myself going back to old emails to make sure I hadn’t dreamt preordering this damn record. I did indeed order this thing. Finally in July I’d gotten a confirmation email that this record was shipping and a week later a heavy, flat, square box showed up on the front porch.

It arrived.

I’ve been spinning this record on and off for the last couple weeks. I stand by my first statement that this is something of a completist-only kind of album. Most folks aren’t going to fall head over heals for this album. No vocals, it’s an album that pushes the wall of sonics to the forefront. It’s gone from an epic ode to self hate and utter emotional devastation to something that transcends that pain and turns it into something far different from its origins. It doesn’t feel angry and pained anymore.

The Fragile : Deviations 1 feels like something of a rebirth of the original album.

This is a completist kind of album, but it’s also for those fans of the Reznor/Ross film scores. First, the music is still there. It’s brighter, louder, and more in focus. The guitars hum with a vibrancy. Without the vocals your attention is pushed towards the amazing job Reznor and Ross did on engineering this thing. It really does sound like a score to some lost dystopian film. Something like Wim Wenders doing a post-apocalyptic arthouse epic. Paris, Texas-meets-The Road Warrior. Listening to these songs with new ears you really do notice just how cinematic Reznor’s arranging truly was, even back in 1999. He was definitely working towards becoming that film composer he’s become. With Trent Reznor making Atticus Ross a permanent member of NIN only goes to show just how important that musical partnership has become. Sure, he was in How To Destroy Angels with Reznor and Reznor’s wife Mariqueen Maandig, but for him to be a permanent member of NIN is something else. It was always just Reznor writing and recording in the studio, with a band assembled for gigs. Having Ross as a permanent member truly shows the importance of that partnership.

I feel I’m rambling here. This record is a masterpiece to my ears. It’s one I happily add to the collection of Reznor/Ross collaborations. I feel that their scores for The Social Network, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, Before The Flood, and Patriot’s Day are modern classics. They are all unique in their own way, but carry with each of them that Reznor/Ross DNA strand that gives them all this cohesive, arthouse charm. I would put The Fragile : Deviations 1 in the same category as their film scores. With unreleased tracks, alternate takes, and extended versions of songs this album feels like it’s own musical beast. It’s almost like the score to the making of a concept album about a guy’s fall into madness. It’s very meta if you think about it.

This one is definitely worth your time if you’re willing to commit to the ride. If you’re looking for “Head Like A Hole”, you should look elsewhere.

9. 2 out of 10

Joel Jerome : Cosmic Bear Jamboree

Listening to Joel Jerome’s new album you can’t help but get swept up in the guy’s joy for music making. There’s a feeling of a guy getting completely lost in his own little musical world. Jerome is an L.A.-based producer who’s studio has welcomed some of indie rock’s most up-and-coming artists. He’s worked hand-in-hand with labels like Burger, Lollipop, and Manimal Records. This time, though, Jerome is working on himself. The result is Cosmic Bear Jamboree, a full-length that has enough lo-fi grit, AM-radio nostalgia, and Stones-y twang to satisfy the most ardent indie rock fan.

Upon first spinning Cosmic Bear Jamboree I’m reminded of another monster of the indie/lo-fi music scene. Jerome seems to have tapped into Kelly Stoltz territory here, writing tunes that evoke a 70s childhood, had or imagined. A time when Gilbert O’ Sullivan played along side the radio dial with The Raspberries and David Bowie. He’s also vibing artists like Ty Segall(“Complicated Man”), Dr. Dog(“Cosmic Dancer”), Jim Noir(“I Was On Acid”), and even touches of Neil Young(“I Don’t Want To Die”).

But that’s not to say Jerome is just aping other artists. He’s not. He wears his influences proudly on his sleeve but puts them through a very unique southern California filter that’s equal parts sun-soaked and THC-enhanced. “You Are So Bad”, with its Bad Stone Phaser-flavored guitar opens the track with a space-y vibe which leads into an ethereal chorus that goes straight into the stratosphere. “Tell Me Things” shows off Jerome’s impressive guitar chops and a knack for twang-y, psychedelic pop that sounds baked in the southern L.A. sun for a bit. “Yr Love Is Weird” is an ode to burnout love that both sweet and disturbing. “Alcohol” gets pretty gritty with some nice garage rock guitar in the chorus, but at times it takes some serious “Light My Fire” flights of fancy which is a pleasant surprise.

In lesser hands this album may have come across trying too hard to hit all the right nostalgic notes. Fortunately, Joel Jerome has the chops and the perfectly aged vocal range that when you’re sitting there letting Cosmic Bear Jamboree wash over you it feels like you’ve discovered a lost classic. This could be the late summer/early fall record you’ve been looking for.

7. 5 out of 10

Radiohead : OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017

I’m sure there’s some camps that would welcome this next statement, while others would have me shot for it: OK Computer was Radiohead’s last great rock and roll record. It’s not that they didn’t release great albums after it. While Kid A and Insomniac may not have moved me in quite the same way as OK Computer, I certainly grew to love them for what they were. And while others wrote King of Limbs off, I found it to be one of the most beautifully alien albums in recent years. But without a doubt, OK Computer was the last album Radiohead made where they sounded like a rock and roll band doing rock and roll things together in a studio. They broke from the shackles of the “Brit Pop” stigma and made an album that was equal parts Philip K. Dick and Can; Noam Chomsky and the Beatles. They took their noisy tendencies and melded them with their melodic ones and allowed Thom Yorke to put his paranoid, sci-fi nerd leanings to good use. It was a record of big concepts and grand sounds. As far as pivotal moments and rock and roll go, the release in 1997 of Radiohead’s OK Computer is a big one.

20 years on and the band have shape shifted into all sorts of musical beings. From electronic wizards to EDM booty shakers to solo artists to film scorers, Radiohead have dipped their toes in nearly every pool. There was a time 10 to 15 years ago where these Brits wanted to just walk away from that pivotal 1997 album, like it was staggering for them to even acknowledge it. But with the recent release of OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017 it seems these fellas from Oxfordshire are cool with their paranoid past once again. With the album’s 20th anniversary upon us OK Computer has been remastered from the original analog tapes and also includes 8 b-sides from the era plus 3 previously released songs. The result is a classic album seen and heard through new eyes and ears. It’s a proper celebration of a 20th century classic, with some incredible extras. It’s never sounded better.

OK Computer is the first Radiohead album I ever bought. It was the summer of 1997 and my wife and I were spending our first summer in our newly built house. I was working and spending my evenings watching MTV 2. A video that I had become completely enamored with was Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”. The animation, the gentle acoustic, the explosions of buzzing guitars all came together into this whole new sound to my ears. I’d liked Pablo Honey some, and I loved The Bends‘ “Just” and “High and Dry”, but I never dropped monies for an album. “Paranoid Android” and OK Computer changed all that. That record turned me into a devout follower of Yorke, O’Brien, Selway, and the brothers’ Greenwood. Hearing it 20 years on it’s just as good, even revealing new sonic layers in its newly remastered form. The songs are still there. They’re just as brilliant as ever. If you were a fan before you’ll still be one. I can’t review this album and give you anymore insight that you haven’t already found and dissected. What I can review are the b-sides included.

I’ve been a fan since OK Computer, like I said before. But one thing I never spent time with were all the b-sides these guys dropped over the years. Much like Pavement, Radiohead had enough b-sides to put out two albums with every record release. These songs have seen the light of day in various forms over the years(special edition releases, live bootlegs, etc), but they’re now conveniently included with the record. The songs are great here. I think OK Computer is perfect the way it is and the right songs were chosen to flesh out this classic, but hearing songs like “Lull”, “Melatonin”, and “Polyethylene(Parts 1 & 2)” you get a glimpse of a band in transition. For the most part these b-sides float along that space between The Bends-era pop sheen with hints of what was to come. In a lot of ways, these tracks are as well known to the hardcore lot than the album tracks. They all live in this state of grace. Perfect examples of what was and what never will be again.

Me, I hear these tracks and I think just how much bands like Muse, Coldplay, and a plethora of other late-90s/early 2000s British bands benefited from Radiohead’s ascent into electro/experimental music wanderers. They left quite a few fans pining for some serious Brit pop and Chris Martin was happy to oblige. Still, none of those bands have come even close to writing their “Palo Alto” or “A Reminder” or “How I Made My Millions”. And the 3 unreleased tracks(until now), “I Promise”, “Man of War”, and “Lift”, will only solidify the band’s stature as one of the greatest pop bands to walk away from mainstream success and indulge their freaky, blippy artistic tendencies.

I couldn’t imagine OK Computer in any form other than how it was presented to us 20 years ago. It’s perfect from start to finish. The remastering only brings that fact into perfect, stellar focus. The unreleased tracks and b-sides are the indifferent sprinkles on top of the dystopian sundae known as OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017.

9.6 out of 10

Videodrones : Nattens Hævn

Videodrones makes music that grabs you by the jugular and doesn’t let go. It’s dark, brooding electronic music that conjures up late night flicks you’d come across when you were a kid in the witching hour. Vampires, zombies, demons, witches, and the supernatural emanating from your television as a strange, buzzing wave of music accompanied it. Sometimes(most of the time) the music would somehow transcend the film it was scoring. Those special soundtracks made an impact on a whole generation of both music lovers and lovers of horror cinema. Two of those music and horror lovers make up the Danish duo Videodrones. On their debut record, 2016s Mondo Ferox, they showed their chops for the musically macabre and dense, analog sonics. It was a fantastic debut that kept those who found it clamoring for more, like zombies scratching at the door wanting flesh.

These two master musicians wasted no time in delving back into the dark corners of Frizzi, Rizatti, Carpenter, and Bobby Beausoleil. Nattens Hævn sticks to the formula laid out by Mondo Ferox, but opens the musical doors even further into straight up kosmiche music. It’s dark, pulsating, and feels like falling into a strange, recurring fever dream.

“The Jugular Gate” starts things off with a pulsating feeling of cosmic dread. Percussive stabs emulate a robotic heart beat as synth drones wheeze by. There’s a more prominent sense of melody here, too. “Maniac City” pulls a bit from Brian Gascoigne’s Phase IV soundtrack. It harkens back to the days of the mellotron and synthetic choirs. Fabio Frizzi haunts this one as well. Even the name brings to mind a film Lucio Fulci might’ve released in the late-70s. “Dream Within A Dream” has a lighter touch, sounding more Le Matos than Popol Vuh. “Hero” wavers and krinkles like some lost, unearthed cassette you found under the seat of an ’81 Skylark. If a sound could be sepia-toned, this track would be that. “Domains” sounds like space madness. It’s oscillating doom on a grand scale.

Videodrones is a musical vehicle for dark sound explorations, but these two also take the album into different musical atmospheres. “A Column” bubbles up like Vangelis in the throes of a cosmic revelation. “Night Dome” grabs some of the Bobby Beausoleil magic, while “A Blade In Your Mind” has a neon-lit 80s feel. Something you would’ve heard on a Commodore 64 game. “Shape Shifter” sounds like John Williams in 8-bit form. Closing track “Nattens Hævn”(which translates to ‘Revenge of the Night’) is a tip of the hat to John Carpenter and Phantasm‘s Fred Myrow and Malcolm Seagrave. Gorgeously dark.

Nattens Hævn makes good on the promise of Mondo Ferox in that Videodrones continue the dark synth improvisations while still keeping a very cinematic feel. But Nattens Hævn also beautifully opens the sonic doors and windows a bit to allow just a smattering of light in. Not enough to scare the things that go bump in the night away. Just enough to keep them at bay for a bit.

8.3 out of 10