If you have listened to ‘R Plus Seven’, make a list of ideas that R beautiful now that you have listened to ‘R Plus Seven’. Here’s mine: savannahs, stairwells, Mondrian, electric blue suits, cursors, a sharpened set of colouring pencils neatly arranged in order from red to violet, skylights, orchids, cleaning the windows of Liberty Place on a crisp April morning, a plane, learning to draw the human body, collonades, Sid Meier, vanishing points, heuristics and finite sequences of steps, amino acids, chess, self-constructing and self-replicating factories, ateliers, the set of all real numbers, the set of all recursive languages, the old weird technocracy.
To say that somebody ‘reinvents’ music would be a pompous cliché best left to jaded press releases and the twentieth century, wouldn’t it? No one ‘reinvents’ music these days, they just reverently but despondently turn over its coals and prod its embers, or so we’re often told. And yet there’s no denying that reinventing music is precisely what Oneohtrix Point Never has been doing for the past few years, and more and more with each new release. Even if they melted into abstraction over time, there was something palpably ‘neo’ about his earlier releases that slotted nicely between the graveyard tributes of hauntology and the dumpster-diving of hypnagogic pop. But then there was the curveball of ‘Replica’, an album which people talk about in hushed tones as if it were a giant baleful asteroid hanging in the sky and just watching us going about our daily business. ‘Replica’ was a mystery humanity may never solve, an ancient curse on the limbic system, a system of doorways leading only to other doorways. It managed to unify enormous godlike emotional forces and apparently inconsequential little sonic granules in some kind of fuck-me, Klein-bottle, infinite-Escher-ascent scenario. It was an album that could only be explained with the principles of string theory (and partially, at that) and yet made as much sense as does fleeing from an oncoming beast.
This new album ‘R Plus Seven’ is so quizzical that it only barely interfaces with a human player on levels such as familiarity and emotionality. It cares nothing for your human need for unity. It cares nothing for your human hierarchy of musical signs. It cares nothing for your human categories of culture. After decades of ‘new’ music only reflecting our own expectations back at us with a veneer of subversiveness, this is what interfacing with reinvented music should feel like - like learning to listen all over again, like being an infant and not yet knowing how things are supposed to go together. ‘R Plus Seven’ is ahead of us, self-generating its own logics, but this is not to say it is inhuman. When needed, in response to demanding environments, the domain of humanity expands to encompass new logics and new forms of expression. And ‘R Plus Seven’ is a demanding environment.