Since 2007, Daniel Lopatin has been recording and performing some of the most adventurous electronic music out there — which also happens to be some of the most listenable experimental music out there — under the name Oneohtrix Point Never. Sounded out, this moniker conjures up some sort of corrupt version of a radio call number; appropriately enough, Lopatin’s music can sound like the bounced-back transmissions of pop culture’s recent past, distorted and worn down over light years of travel. Disconnected rhythms file past chopped-up sound samples snatched from old Folger’s commercials or withering VHS tapes: Lopatin’s music toes the line between the mundane and the sublime.
Over the course of five albums, and through the launch of his own boutique label, Software, Lopatin’s aesthetic has refined itself into something of a signature — which is his cue to take things in a different direction. On Friday night at the ICA, Lopatin joins with visual artist Nate Boyce for a multimedia performance of “Reliquary House,” a joint work they first performed last year at the Museum of Modern Art, as well as some other excursions into his catalog, both old and new. A Sudbury native, Lopatin now operates out of Brooklyn, N.Y., but he still holds fondly onto his 508 phone number from his days in Massachusetts. This kind of emotional connection to raw data is at the heart of Lopatin’s practice, and if the theory behind it sounds heavy, his music — effervescent, unpredictable, and suffused with an eerie commercial resonance — spares you the burden of having to think too much while enjoying it.
Q. How did your collaboration with Nate Boyce come about?
A. I was introduced to Nate through a mutual friend named Robert Beatty who is a terrific artist who had done some album covers for me. He said, “You should check out Nate’s work, I think you guys would click,” and I was totally taken aback by it. We’ve been collaborators ever since.
Q. What about his work appealed to you?
A. I consider him to be a sculptor, first and foremost, even though he works in the video realm a lot, but he approaches it sculpturally. I also think of him as an abstractionist. And those are things that appeal to me. There’s a similarity in the way we use materials that already exist in the world and repurpose them.
Q. On first view, Boyce’s work reminds me of being a kid and watching those very early examples of computer animation — an hourglass circling on its edge, or a checkerboard surface warping into a sphere — and I would just lose it.
A. Yes! For me it was the WGBH logo, and the bit of synth sound design that was the theme. I think that had more impact on me than any kind of music.
Q. I’ve seen the word “nostalgia” used a lot in attempts to describe your music. To me, nostalgic seems like too restrictive a lens to view what you do.
A. I agree with that. I think nostalgia used purely for the sake of emotional reminiscing is extremely boring. For me, it’s about dealing with that as an idea — the boringness of that, the limitations of that — and imploding it. So it’s very much critical of nostalgia, in a way — or what I’m trying to do, anyway. I try to introduce different kinds of tensions that don’t necessarily feel sentimental, that are more personal, for me. It’s about taking things that are “shared” sentiment and making something personal out of them.
Q. Originally, I was going to ask if the appeal of the sounds you use is at all autobiographical, but then I wasn’t sure if that question made sense. But what you’re saying sounds like that. Would you ever frame your music as personal?
A. Yeah, I think when we look back, we generally tend to inflate the past with some lie — things were so much better, or so much worse. That’s not bad or good, but it’s an interesting feature of the way we deal with things that generally just don’t want to stick, things that are fleeting. So I’m trying to paint a picture of them fleeting, of them being lies. I’m not just trying to simply paint them; I’m trying to paint them as moments that we’re not capturing correctly. When I work, I’m trying to show that and not the nostalgia itself.
Q. From a production standpoint, what is the smallest amount of sound that you can have that contains some of this emotional information? On [your 2011 album] “Replica,” for example, I’ll hear the tiniest bit of someone giving a refreshed “ahh” after a sip of a drink, and even though it’s so small, it’s transportive — like the fabric of the sound is something I haven’t felt for a while.Continued...