By Saidif Mejia
What usually comes into mind when thinking about the musical score for famous movies? Some might think of critically-acclaimed figures like John Williams of the “Star Wars” saga background music. Others picture Hans Zimmer, the creator of the entire soundtrack for “The Dark Knight” trilogy or “Blade Runner 2049.”
One composer that remains heavily underrecognized, however, especially for hardcore cinephiles and appreciators of cinematic scores, is Oneohtrix Point Never (pronounced one-oh-tricks). Although Oneohtrix Point Never did not get his breakthrough into the film industry until 2017, his career as a retro-inspired electronic producer began in the mid-2000s, with his content improving every year since then.
Oneohtrix Point Never’s actual name is Daniel Lopatin. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, to two Russian immigrant parents, both of whom had musical backgrounds. Like many from the late Gen X generation, Lopatin entertained himself by playing classic Nintendo games like Metroid, a videogame known for its classic chiptune soundtrack that would later impact Lopatin’s own style of music.
As Lopatin reached adolescence, he would sometimes make small compositions on his father’s Roland Juno-60 synth, later becoming involved in different bands throughout middle and high school. While he was in college, Lopatin worked in a post-punk band, even dabbling with noise music on his own time while attending Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. Despite Lopatin’s constant collaboration with other people in a variety of different groups from the early to mid-2000s, he eventually found more critical success when he formed his solo project, Oneohtrix Point Never, in 2007.
In the years following the formation of Oneohtrix Point Never, Lopatin released a decent amount of studio albums. Some of these releases have been credited with inspiring the online vaporwave music movement of the early 2010s due to the excessive sampling of ’80s and ’90s television commercials as well as famous pop songs from the same time period.
Others believed Lopatin was merely recreating the work of more prominent synth-focused musicians from the 1980s, such as Tangerine Dream or Vangelis. Nevertheless, Lopatin’s music stood out against the indie-pop and electronica-dominated underground music scene of the late 2000s, so this would only increase his following in the coming years.
OPN’s true breakthrough into the mainstream came in the fall of 2013, with the release of his Warp Records debut album R Plus Seven. This new studio album garnered the attention of indie music critics and regular independent listeners alike, paving the way for him to collaborate with more household names like FKA Twigs, Nine Inch Nails, and Soundgarden.
Most recently, in addition to his ninth studio album called Age Of, Oneohtrix Point Never has found success working with up and coming filmmakers, Ben and Josh Safdie, also known as the Safdie Brothers. 2017 presented an eventful year for Lopatin, as he not only announced that he would be working on a project with FKA Twigs, but also scored the soundtrack for the 2017 independent crime thriller, Good Time, even working with Iggy Pop on one of the film’s tracks.
His performance in this film defines what modern movie soundtracks should be: innovative, inspired, and incredible. Of course, there were still some elements of Tangerine Dream in the more slow-paced parts of the film, but Lopatin’s tracks somewhat resembled that of Giorgio Moroder when the intense and race-against-time moments came through, further making a callback to the thrill-ride scores of films like “Midnight Express” (1978) and “Run Lola Run” (1998).
Over time, Oneohtrix Point Never’s distinct sound has evolved dramatically, changing from great into spectacular. This year, Lopatin revealed his participation in the scoring of the third Safdie Brothers’ feature film starring Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems. According to audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival, the movie appears to be superior to Good Time in some aspects, and at least some of that acclaim has to be due to the sounds of Oneohtrix Point Never. The film will have its release in December of 2019.
Everyone should keep an eye out for Lopatin and what he is currently working on because when it comes to Oneohtrix Point Never, there is rarely anything that lacks substance, appeal and creativity.
Feature image by Oneohtrix Point Never via Bandcamp.