Last year’s breakout album Replicas elevated laptop noisemaker Dan Lopatin’s bracing Oneohtrix Point Never project to new heights, but it also revealed a new wrinkle in his sound. Built primarily on layers of finely-minced commercial samples from the ’90s, Replicas‘s bright-yet-perplexing sound was a clear break from OPN’s previous output. Rifts, a three-CD or five-LP set, finally culls three of Lopatin’s early albums, along with two extra discs of material, corralling an oeuvre once scattered across innumerable handmade CDRs, noise cassette splits, and ridiculously-limited LPs.
Evocative from his very first effort, 2007′s Betrayed in the Octagon, “Woe is the Transgression” finds Lopatin conjuring a bleak, forlorn, lead-heavy atmosphere of analog synthscapes. While his sonic forebearers – be they Klaus Schulze or Cluster – often emphasized the utopian and bucolic with their array of synthesizers, Lopatin’s vision is dystopian, paranoid, ashen. Two years on, tracks like the arpeggio-heavy “Computer Vision,” soaring nine-minute “Format & Journey North” and epic 16-minute cosmic journey of “When I Get Back From New York” allow in a bit more light.
With titles like “Transmat Memories” “Laser to Laser” and “Zones Without People” and analog tones, Rifts most readily brings to mind pulpy sci-fi paperbacks of the 1970s, the strange new worlds that OPN details like something arising from a Martian landscape. Lasers and hovercraft drones abound, but there’s always something solemn at work as well. Take the relatively concise three minutes of “Emil Cioran.” Named for the bleak 20th-century Romanian existential philosopher (who once quipped: “Ennui is the echo in us of time tearing itself apart”), the hyperdrive effects at the start quickly dissolve into a melancholic melody lying just beneath its jittery haze. Throughout Rifts, a suspension of time can be felt, but that sound of Cioran’s tearing is also audible, as Lopatin remakes and remodels these old kosmische sounds into something new in the 21st century.