Concert preview: Electronic musician Daniel Lopatin brings childhood wonderment to life with Oneohtrix Point Never

By Columbus Alive
From the January 16, 2014 edition

Oneohtrix Point Never mastermind Daniel Lopatin described his childhood fascination with his father’s Roland Juno-60 synthesizer with a mix of wonderment and glee.

“It was cool even just looking at the control panel,” he said from his home in New York during an early January phone interview. “As a little kid you feel like you’re in a fighter jet or something.”

The same sense of imagination and limitless possibility has carried over into the electronic musician’s more recent sonic explorations. “Zebra,” a track off his 2013 Warp Records debut R Plus Seven, for one, comes on like the soundtrack to a waking dream, piling on atmospheric synths and pinging electronics that ring out like digital wind chimes. On past albums Lopatin leaned more heavily on repetition, but this time around the sounds are more organic and freeform, like a forest gradually encroaching on a modern metropolis.

“It’s a record where I gave myself a lot more allowance to move between free, open time and gridded time,” said Lopatin, 31, who grew up in a heavily musical household, raised by a mother who taught piano and a father who played in various rock bands. “I was really just trying to fold those worlds into each other and see how I could get from one to the other in a structurally interesting way.”

Virtually all of Lopatin’s musical expeditions have been motivated by a deep sense of curiosity. He crafted his first track, “Grief and Repetition,” in 2003 because he wanted to see what it would sound like if he recorded different piano motifs to cassette and then layered, chopped and otherwise toyed with the samples until they were, in his own words, “this weird, rainbow smear of pretty sound.”

Though the musician has always gravitated toward electronic composition, he would never describe himself as mechanically inclined.

“I don’t understand most things,” he said. “If I have a child one day and they ask how a toaster works, I don’t know what I would say. I’d have to look it up on Google.”

This explains, in part, how he has been able to maintain his work’s childlike sense of wonder well into adulthood.

“When you like music and you don’t know how things are recorded, it’s literally like magic,” he said. “It’s really the same way for me now. Every time I start messing around with an idea it’s still new and shocking. It never gets old.”

Photo courtesy of Oneohtrix Point Never