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Onethrix Point Never
Onethrix Point Never
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Onethrix Point Never
This Mortal Coil
“This Mortal Coil”
Most of the British label 4AD’s hit acts—including Pixies, The Breeders, and M/A/R/R/S—don’t have the sound with which the label was often pegged in the 1980s and early ’90s: a sort of gloomy-but-pretty post-punk ethereal style. However, if there was an act that epitomized this aesthetic, it’s This Mortal Coil, the project of label co-founder Ivo Watts-Russell. Involving a variety of musicians and singers, it recorded original instrumentals and cover songs from diverse acts such as Big Star, Talking Heads and Judy Collins with a sort of sophisticated, if pretentious, melancholia.
The release at hand is a four-CD boxed set, compiling the group’s entire discography of three albums plus a bonus fourth disc, entitled “Dust & Guitars,” which should be of particular interest to fans as it collects the group’s single and EP tracks, including the out-of-print, previously vinyl-only Modern English-cover twosome “16 Days / Gathering Dust,” “Acid, Bitter & Sad” (one of the best This Mortal Coil originals) from the “Lonely Is An Eyesore” compilation, and an unreleased single, featuring a cover of Neil Young’s “We Never Danced” with a minimal cello, piano and fake harpsichord arrangement behind Alison Limerick’s emotive vocals.
At its best, This Mortal Coil was utterly mind-blowing, transcendent and beautiful. The gorgeous, room-silencing voice-and-guitar cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” performed by Cocteau Twins members Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie, is one of the group’s pinnacles. Unfortunately, time has not been so kind to other moments in This Mortal Coil’s catalog, which often utilized now painfully outdated elements from the ’80s such as gated drum machine beats and Yamaha synthesizer preset tones, alongside the more palatable string arrangements.
Other 4AD acts are perhaps more deserving of the lavish boxed-set treatment (where’s the love for His Name Is Alive?) but This Mortal Coil works as an art object and memento—the final word on a project with several dizzying high points but mostly material that was better in theory than in practice, before it shuffled off.
Oneohtrix Point Never
“Replica,” the new album from Oneohtrix Point Never, a project of Brooklyn musician Daniel Lopatin, focuses on audio samples taken from a DVD compilation of television commercials from the 1980s and is enhanced with notes from a Roland Juno-60, an early ’80’s analog synth.
Some of you may be groaning already, but “Replica” is not in the same category as the seemingly endless parade of ironic, distanced new music that oozes with cheesy synth nostalgia. After listening to the album, it seems like the use of these samples is less of a gimmick than a deliberate artistic constraint. Lopatin doesn’t try to ape Giorgio Moroder or even allude to any obvious pop reference points that flourished 30 years ago. Instead, he centers on creating a fascinating piece of sound art, more in line with avant-garde musique concrète and Brian Eno’s ambient music.
The commercial samples are rough, seemingly on purpose—they are often low-fidelity snippets, sometimes without clean beginnings or endings; vocal pieces are interrupted, and instruments stutter violently. The rhythms of the looped samples are mostly irregular, and when drum samples are used, they provide more of a texture or a presence than a backbone for the songs.
The album really seems to come together nearly halfway through, starting with the title track. “Nassau” is a sloppy jumble of sounds that actually works, in its own schizoid, confusing way, and it’s followed by “Submersible,” which is a straight-up ambient number, with cascading waves of gentle notes. “Child Soldier” is fittingly titled, a deeply unsettling, yet playful track. The closing “Explain” features a positive, nearly angelic mood, ending an enigmatic album by derailing many expectations gleaned from its source materials, instrumentation, and methods.