As good as the year 2011 was for music, Replica took the “Album of the Year” title for me, but just barely. It was my first introduction to Oneohtrix Point Never (Daniel Lopatin) and it left quite an impression on me. His sound varies album to album, and Replica is one of his most sample heavy. “Moody looping samples” sums up this album succinctly. Lopatin sourced his samples from television advertisements in the 80’s and 90’s, but none are identifiable. He takes a note or two, maybe a 3 second short melody and loops and and wraps it up with ambient noise. The result is a fascinating soundscape, something completely alien, like an old broadcast that has been found but deteriorated into a jarbled mess.
It opens with Andro, the first of many layered compositions. This and the others aren’t just a collection of random samples meant to keep your interest in the ambient noise, there’s a song structure here that’s deliberate. Andro eases you in to the concept of the album, layering on sample after sample, growing the intensity bit by bit. Power of Persuasion is as gorgeous as it is unsettling, shifting quickly back and forth between loud scratches and faded out pianos. It’s echoed for greater effect by the following track Sleep Dealer, one of my favorites on the album. It shifts back and forth between heavy thumping bass and several short vocal samples. The vocal samples are in between words, just noises and sighs really. A friend called this “the sighing track” because of those samples, and it’s interesting with how bizarre this song is- everyone has liked it when I showed it to them. It’s got an unusual charm to it, very mysterious and erratic. Remember and Replica end the first half of the album on a very mournful tone. Replica has one of the longest sustained samples on the album, a melancholic piano drives the track through an environment of dizzying synths that is reminiscent of his other works.
Nassau opens the second half with more bizarre vocal stuttering, water splashing, dogs barking, and more piano. I think it’s here when I realized the piano was the backbone of the album, the thing that gave it a base for the samples to rest on. Up is another highlight, a continual loop of industrial drums and someone saying “Up!” over and over. Like the other loop heavy tracks, it’s very hypnotic and entrancing. It transitions into this heavenly cloud of synths and soft pianos, it’s very calming. Child Soldier follows suit with the other repetitive tracks on side B, featuring samples that must be from a children’s action figure commercial. There are also occasional breaks in the song even shorter vocal samples but I always got the feeling that it was like the start of an intense IDM track, but the drums never kick in. Explain is most like Lopatin’s earlier and future work (especially the follow up album R Plus Seven (2013)). It instead relies more on electronic vocals and bright, dissonant synths that give off a big Brian Eno feel.
I have yet to find an album quite like this one, even among Lopatin’s amazing discography. It’s the kind of album that cements in comparisons to the artist (e.g. This album was a lot like Oneohtrix Point Never’s sound). Like I said earlier it was my favorite in 2011 and has been one of my favorite albums since. It’s endlessly relistenable, atmospheric and dense, and somehow still grows on me. It’s also got one of my favorite album arts of all time, a strangely fitting horrifying yet amusing choice. Check this album out if you haven’t, especially if you are a fan of Ambient or Plunderphonics.