This is a record with the depth to match Lopatin’s considerable ambitions, one that applies his crate-digger instincts to a higher purpose.
Few artists are as frustrating to follow as Daniel Lopatin. His work can be thrilling and cerebral as often as it is bland and uninteresting. For every moment of brilliance–such as his Eccojam mixtape under the name Chuck Person–there are moments like his early work under the Oneohtrix Point Never moniker, which was often too caught up in its own world to really say anything. Granted, Lopatin’s body of work is so massive and varied that it’s hard to complain about any one of his projects not following through on his promise, but he has always seemed capable of more than he’s shown, as evidenced by the rousing success of Garden of Delete. This is the closest that Lopatin has ever come to a mission statement, with all of his ideas of how music works and should work synthesized into one impressive whole.
Lopatin has always been fond of hiding behind personas with his projects, obscuring himself with a collection of symbols (which isn’t a new thing in electronic music). Lately, though, he’s been hinting at his own true nature through essays and interviews. The Lopatin we see in the press is very much the one that shows up on Garden of Delete: a crate devourer and music egalitarian who sees equal value in high art and beautiful garbage. This manifests in a number of ways on the album, from his glitchy take on death metal (“SDFK”) to the acoustic guitar that appear on “Sticky Drama” and “Child of Rage.” Yet Lopatin has more focus than your typical musical omnivore, filtering each of these sounds and ideas through his own perspective and bending them to his will instead of letting genre convention dictate ideas.
If anything on Garden of Delete sounds typical of Lopatin’s previous work, it’s his use of pre-recorded vocal samples. This is a trick he’s used for years, and he often loops and cycles vocals to the point of unrecognizability. For reference, hear what he does with the eerie, distorted vocals on the horror-pastiche “Animals.” However, Lopatin also made the curious choice to leave several of his vocal samples unmanipulated. On the sprawling “Mutant Standard,” the teenaged voices that make up the crux of the piece are presented without any electronic trickery to make us reconsider what they’re saying. Lopatin’s merely presenting us with a different context to hear what they have to say. It occurs again on “Child of Rage,” in which he seems to take us into the mind of a child working through an anger and frustration that he doesn’t understand. It’s a trick that others (namely Burial) have done before, but Lopatin pulls it off to such an exceptional degree that it’s hard to find fault.
After years of making admirable music, Lopatin has finally made a record worthy of embracing in Garden of Delete. This is a record with the depth to match Lopatin’s considerable ambitions, one that applies his crate-digger instincts to a higher purpose. As it turns out, the smartest kid in the room is more than just smart.