As Oneohtrix Point Never debuts at Disney Hall, composer-producer Daniel Lopatin discusses ‘Age Of’
When producer and composer Daniel Lopatin, who makes his Walt Disney Concert Hall debut Monday under his stage name, Oneohtrix Point Never, attempts to describe his recent album, “Age Of,” he fumbles for accurate signifiers. He settles on, “This kind of crazy, mutant, orchestral — pseudo-orchestral ... um ... pop record — pop-electronic record — with heavy orchestral tendencies.”
And when he discusses the story within “MYRIAD,” the title of the sold-out production that will receive its West Coast premiere Monday, he pulls back. “I’m an ambitious over-talker and over-explainer of things,” he says, sounding hesitant to continue, before adding a teaser:
“We have some really lovely dancers come out who are sort of cowgirls at the edge of time. ‘Cowgirls for Voluntary Human Extinction’ is the nickname they earned.”
The “MYRIAD” program notes paint a more artful portrait. “Examining disorienting forms at the intersection of theater, installation art and musical performance, and imagined from the perspective of an alien intelligence, ‘MYRIAD’ explores film and television tropes, abstract sculpture, game ephemera, poetry, apocryphal histories, internet esoterica and philosophies of being.”
Beginning in the mid-’00s, Lopatin has attempted to capture the contemporary musical version of these ideas through a distinctive set of approaches that have bubbled into the mainstream.
Generating dynamic, heavily distorted analog synth tones, manipulated voice, moments of jarring silence and wild rhythms in service of structurally sturdy musical pieces, his approach has echoed in the work of Bon Iver, Björk, Kanye West and Nine Inch Nails. He’s collaborated with artists including New York singer Anohni and British singer-producer James Blake. A song Lopatin wrote for R&B superstar Usher morphed into the Oneohtrix Point Never piece “The Station”
What his collaborators and admirers share is the desire to sonically reside in the space between human and machine, acoustic and electric, codes and frequencies.
During a recent phone conversation while commuting on a busy day in Los Angeles, Lopatin references the show’s “incredible two-sided sculptures that are rotating and descending on a kind of motorized pulley system,” “irregular polygon panels,” “a very loose, but developed, dramaturgy,” “the sanctity of the recorded medium” and “the lore of ‘MYRIAD.’” The title itself is a semi-acronym: “My Record = Internet Addiction Disorder.”
He also bemoans recorded music’s fate in contemporary culture, admitting that he’s perpetually “jealous of films, because the cinema is one of the last truly considered populist experiences, where you can go in and more or less get what you deserve, which is a lot, you know?”
In the space surrounding all those ideas reside the infinite, angular possibilities of Lopatin’s work, which is rooted in modern electronics, but minus the mind-numbing symmetry of much commercial pop and computer-based music.
Lopatin originally produced “MYRIAD,” which uses much of the music from “Age Of” as its foundation, for a commissioned show at the Park Avenue Armory in New York.
He says the Disney Hall performance will be similar — “It’s all the bells and whistles” — and describes working with electronics company Yamaha to harness its innovative TransAcoustic technology. The machine, says Lopatin, “exploits the resonant frequencies of stringed instruments, pianos in particular, and kind of hybridizes the piano with a MIDI instrument.” He’s hoping to employ Disney Hall’s pipe organ for the occasion.
A white square is the most oppressive force in the galaxy. It’s like the complete reduction of everything.”
The artist has described his intention in “MYRIAD” as “this epochal four-part cycle that explains our repeated idiocy through time — the ways in which we always enact our own demise, over and over and over.”
To visually showcase the idiocy, Lopatin enlisted longtime collaborator Nate Boyce, who has helped define the Oneohtrix Point Never aesthetic for nearly a decade.
That’s where the pulleys, hexagons and cowgirls come in. Serving as kind of narrators across the performance, the props and dancers “introduce the changing of the epochs within the story.”
Lopatin envisioned the visual presentation as he was making “Age Of.” He knew the work would be “seeding some eventual concert that was going to be more than just a concert, not exactly like other things that I had seen before.”
He and Boyce restructured the album sequence in service of a narrative, but chief among their concerns was something more ephemeral: “What do the songs really mean or how do they make you feel? What story can we tell with the different moods and atmospheres in the songs?”
Lopatin knew he wanted to employ projected images, but he was loath to use the typical screen shape, calling white squares “the most oppressive force in the galaxy. It’s like the complete reduction of everything, you know? So we were really trying to stay away from white squares in general.”
He picked a good venue in the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Hall, where right angles are a rarity. As of Thursday, however, he hadn’t yet been inside.
Asked what he’ll be doing, musically, while in Los Angeles, the Brooklynite is coy. Lopatin does allow that in addition to prepping the performance, he’s here “to see what’s cooking.”
“I have a lot of friends working on studio projects around here, so I’m just going to pester them and see if I can elbow my way into an interesting session,” he says. He doesn’t name names.
That said, his anxiety hinders his ability to enjoy other artists’ work. “I can never listen to music passively,” he confesses, laughing.
When he hears a song, he’s quickly overwhelmed and contemplating the many different variables and factors. That shouldn’t be surprising, he adds. “If you’re a car salesman and you drive past a lot, it might trigger you a little bit.”
7:47 a.m. Updated to clarify that Daniel Lopatin wrote a song for Usher, but didn’t collaborate with him.
This article was originally published at 3 a.m.
From the Emmys to the Oscars.
Get our revamped Envelope newsletter, sent twice a week, for exclusive awards season coverage, behind-the-scenes insights and columnist Glenn Whipp’s commentary.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.