:: Article

Music for fiction

By Nicolle Elizabeth.

Oneohtrix Point Never is spiritual jamz created electronically through various random mathematical algorithms, in my opinion. What does that mean? It’s good music to write to, think to. Tones tapping into the subcontia via Gregorian chanting-like rhythms, artificial sound installation, emotion: What does it sound like when a person has a pivotal moment? What does it sound like when they don’t? It became hip to emulate the sound of an echo down an empty church corridor for twenty minutes at a time and play it on the floor of a basement in a punk house again, and it was awesome. Arguably, noise as a musical genre has long since been passe because it got so huge. Suddenly thousands of indie musicians hung up their basses and ran toward drum kits and picked up music theory textbooks and everybody was a noise artist. Shows were overflooded with drone, people looked at it as a fad instead of a movement. Some artists were working before it all blew up and some never stopped, Oneohtrix Point Never has been working at creating a higher plane of musical thinking officially since 2004, though equally before then throughout his career and life, and there is nothing passe about him. Leading the field in creative thought, some consider the man an electronic wizard.

“Fragments of the OPN project date back to 2004, while I was recording my thesis project at Hampshire College. I had a hardware sequencer and two polysynths, one of which was my dad’s from when he played in Russian restaurant bands all over Boston. I didn’t have any pedals. All of my editing was done on an old PC,” he told me.

“Most of my early recordings relied heavily on masking the synth’s default sounds – essentially I was interested in synths as source material from which I could make concrete music with. OPN encompasses that technique, but adds another strategy – immersing the synthesizer in its natural environment so that a) melody and composition are foregrounded b) the sound of the technology itself is championed.”

In a fiction world where the short short is being exploited by people who feel the craft is most easily approachable and that it takes the least amount of work, I cannot help but draw the parallel. Writing good fiction is one of the hardest things in the world to do, and while there are hundreds if not thousands of growing mimics, those who actually know what they’re doing, who slave over their craft, who cannot help themselves but write, still stand out from the crowd as does Oneohtrix Point Never in noise. I’ll never forget the day he showed me the quarter page ad his record label had taken out in UK Wire Magazine to promote his work Betrayed in the Octagon (though he probably wouldn’t want me to talk about it here because he is as we say back home where we’re from “wicked humble”). I think in any artistic medium there are mediocre prophets and divine ones, and while contrary to my former harsh remark on exploitation, the act of pursuing the art is in itself a divine gesture and this music provides a higher plane of thinking, a science experiment in brain waves. Though the only person probably not actually experimenting is Oneohtrix Point Never.


“I’ll hear melodies, or clusters of melody in my head and try to play them on my synths using looping pedals and other things. Loops are sampled.on the computer, repitched and layered, and bounced down to a .WAV. Then I resample the .WAV and add new loops. I continue this process until something solid emerges. I do it this way because with every iteration of sampling, repitching and layering, the music gets furthur and further away from the original ideal, and begins to generate its own characteristics and particularities.”

His trilogy, Betrayed In The Octagon, Zones Without People, Russian Mind and other releases can be found coming soon as LPs for Arbor called Zones Without People, as well as a collection of OPN music videos called Memory Vague (Root Strata). He’ll be performing in Europe at No Fun Fest Sweden, and performing on the West Coast at The Smell on Halloween. Another LP coming out on No Fun in October called Russian Mind, which is the shocking conclusion to the OPN trilogy. He will also be scoring a film in the winter. His CDR label Upstairs is scheduled to release its first batch late this summer. Distros Mimaroglu and Tomentosa in the US, and Volcanic Tongue in the UK also put out the work, or, google pointnever.com.


Nicolle Elizabeth, here.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, July 27th, 2009.