Oneohtrix Point Never @ the Doug Fir Lounge 2/5/2014 (with Dawn of Midi)

Last Wednesday, the Doug Fir was packed to the gills for electronic music luminary Daniel Lopatin, aka Oneohtrix Point Never. He was joined onstage by visual artist Nate Boyce. This show was a strange and highly entertaining experience– and it  actually significantly changed my perception of Lopatin’s music.

Dawn of Midi, a three piece acoustic jazz group of bassist Aakaash Israni, pianist Amino Belyamani, and drummer Qasim Naqvi, opened the show memorably. This was the Brooklyn-based group’s first time performing in Portland, in fact! Though they bear some superificial similarities to Australia’s The Necks (whose fine albums OpenAquatic, and Sex you have hopefully had time to check out), they have an utterly unique sound. One could describe Dawn of Midi’s music as being fractured, percussive, almost hobbling. Belyamani is perhaps the most unique figure in this strange and captivating musical unit– he stabs repetitively and doesn’t expend energy on pretty (or even unpretty) flourishes. Basically, he turns his piano into a hand drum.

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Dawn of Midi sounds a bit like a a jazz band made up of creaking floorboards, a pail underneath a leak, and a purring cat. I mean this as close to literally as I can. I feel as though I’ve used the stylistic label of “minimalism” many times already in this journal, perhaps because much of the music I like falls under this label. Yet Dawn of Midi takes minimalism to a fairly extreme level.  The music is angular and repetitive, hard without being harsh. There was something oddly meditative about their (usually medium-length) pieces which built very slowly, adding seemingly one note at a time over the span of many bars. Though it felt as though their set was essentially just one piece divided into several different medium-length parts, this band piqued my curiosity and had sort of an eerie, meditative presence. I recommend looking into them– here’s their Bandcamp.

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Over the years, Daniel Lopatin’s music has gotten progressively more and more strange, ambitious, and challenging. His earlier work (which I honestly prefer) often had more of a drone structure and was noticeably influenced by Boards of Canada. I remember being awed by his hugely underrated 2009 album Russian Mind, which saw him very much in this earlier mode. Around 2010 though, his music began to tend towards glitchy computerized art music, with deliberately artificial-sounding choral MIDI presets dominating his sound. Ever since 2011’s Replica, Oneohtrix Point Never frequently gives the impression of someone recording extremely deliberately-synthetic-sounding music on digital synthesizer from the 80s. It’s strange, but fascinating.

While I will admit that I was not particularly impressed with his latest Onehotrix installment, R Plus Seven, I must say that I respect Lopatin and think that he is brave as hell for attempting to make a form of unique art music for the computer generation. This show really drove the point of Oneohtrix Point Never home for me, in part because of the beautiful and highly original collaborative visual projections of Nate Boyce. On the screen behind the two artists, strange disembodied 3d figures, often looking like limbs and machinery, pulsed and gyrated unnaturally amidst flickering oceans of digital liquid. Something about the combination of the visual art and the music reminded me, for some inexplicable reason, of early teen memories of playing weird immersive video games like Timelapse and Myst. Lopatin’s music owes a little bit to electronic dance music and to some modern art music, but what’s interesting about it is that it takes the digital world as its object. There’s more or less a complete detachment from the physical world in albums like R Plus Seven, Replica, and Chuck Person’s Eccojams Vol. 1.

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In the sold-out dark lounge, we all stood in awe. Visually, this show was enormously entertaining, yet the spectacle was also thought-provoking. The oddly profound depths of the computerized imagery held me in thrall, and gave a new context to decent pieces like “Still Life” and “Boring Angel”. And Lopatin didn’t just hit play: he messed around on his laptop with the samples and themes he used on R Plus Seven, creating more or less unique versions of these pieces. I can basically get what Lopatin and Boyce are going for, and I think that Lopatin completely deserves the acclaim that he’s getting as an intrepid explorer of the possibilities of electronic music. Now, if he could bring back the magic and unique beauty of old Oneohtrix Point Never, and tie that in with his other meta-art ambitions, that’d really satisfy me. This show was weird, and interesting, and I think I’ll come back for more the next time Lopatin is in town.

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Photo Credits (top to bottom):
Yousef Hatlani 1, 4, 5
Sean Bradford 2, 3

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