In which Sean Delanty and Brad Stabler cross examine the extremely NSFW music video for "Still Life." Read an interview with Oneohtrix Point Never here.
Initially, Oneohtrix Point Never's upcoming full-length, R Plus Seven, seems to transcend the flesh. Instrumental timbres and samples are isolated in a sterile, synthetic vacuum-- pristine, polished aural objects laid bare for the listener, almost as if on display under the bright lights of a museum exhibit. Perhaps this is a rather oblique connection, but as I continue to listen to the album (due October 1, on Warp), my mind keeps wandering back to the aesthetic of this Namco Museum video game that I played when I was a little kid. Much like Oneohtrix's previously shared videos for R Plus 7 cuts “Problem Areas” and “Still Life (Excerpt)," the imagery of Namco Museum provides a fleeting glimpse into an austere sort of virtual abyss, which is exactly the sort of soundworld that the album itself occupies. Until today, I might have contended that this exploration of a cold, digital void would be diametrically opposed to the fleshiness, the sensuality, the filth-- in a word, the physicality-- of the human body.
However, with his new video for an extended version of “Still Life," Lopatin has proven the exact opposite to be true, revealing that visceral, bodily considerations are necessarily inherent to any sort of technological dissociation. In the incredible clip created by artist Jon Rafman, we see flashes of disgustingly dirty computers and keyboards, screenshots of anime pornography, live-action shots of furries and other online fetishists, and a variety of other NSFW, internet-enabled manifestations of human sexuality, violence, and general carnality-- all presented through a hallucinatory digital aesthetic. Thus, through its stunning conflation of the fleshy reality of the human body and the disjunctive, isolating nature of Internet-era consumption, it recontextualizes and deepens our understanding of what Lopatin has achieved with “Still Life” and, indeed, with R Plus Seven as a whole. It would seem that beneath the cold, metallic façade of Lopatin's recent compositions lurks the tangible, throbbing heart of humanity itself. --Sean Delanty
It's that last important word from Sean--humanity-- that I continue to wrestle with when considering the pornographic, violent imagery of the above clip in light of the tune's rapidly imploding harmoninc void. For all its rapidfire displays of nostalgia and filth, the video somehow manages to both propose and dodge the following question: which is worse, your detached digital self or your own organic imagination? Lopatin has made no secret on the forthcoming R Plus 7 that his intentions for the record are inherently contradictory moves: it's a constant build-up to a state of joy, delivered in the coldest and most calculated way possible. Song structures are ripped asunder and scrambled and stretched into pieces, rendered via digital software that sounds not only ancient, but thoroughly dead. But it's articulated with brushstrokes that are playful and jubilant in a childish way, dropping melodies like toys on the floor, pushing a song down the stairs for a quick symphonic boom before drearily nodding off again.
It's hard to look at the clip for "Still Life" and make that connection to joy. There's been a couple of attempts to pigeonhole "Still Life" as an exposé of all the things that are slowly degrading as a result of mankind's increasing reliance upon a digital persona. But there's another lens to peer through: voyeurism. Almost everything in Rafman's clip is from another source, another imagination, another human. Whether or not the folks who made these things are sick or brave is not really part of the debate. Almost all the video’s images are erotic, disgusting, and/or violent, yet the images of real people (albeit dolled up, in furry costumes) are almost all relegated to the center of the frame, draped against a backdrop both psilocybin-like in nature and two decades removed in source, circa Namco Museum. It's a lengthy peep into a mindset of just how far the human imagination can go, delivered as a full-frontal, audio-visual assault. But there seems to be something else here: Rafman and Lopatin are furiously suggesting that as we continue to plug in, we must keep our organic selves in mind. Lopatin allowed himself to run free inside of digital technology, and the stuff on display here is the result of the same work ethic, albeit for different ends. The imporant stone to overturn, really, is this: if you're making provocative music that causes a reaction, and you pair it with provocative imagery, which side truly prevails? Or is it both? Who are we to dictate what to give a fuck about?
“You can see everything clearly,” the voice says, before giving way to the tune’s rapidly cutting, harmonic void. “But you can’t grasp the meaning.” That’s the beauty of dissecting a work of art: you can pick out certain pieces and magnify them and fold them into your own personal world. There’s a sentence after this that reiterates this theme with more venom and vigor, but that’s not the portion that leaves the impression. Like Oneohtrix's music, the clip for "Still Life" can only offer what the viewer wants to take out of it. In his interview with Ad Hoc's Mike Sugarman, Lopatin suggested that "[R Plus Seven] is deeply manipulative, maybe moreso than records before it [...] What I’m happy about is no matter how specific I get with it, people-- my friends, my family, whatever-- will point out certain things that stuck out to them, that hit them personally. A weird detail they noticed, a little varied thing. They rarely ever are consistent with each other." The reactions to the clip, including this one, proved he's succeeded. -- Brad Stabler
Stream R Plus Seven in full here, courtesy of NPR.