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Live Review: Oneohtrix Point Never

30 May 2016 | 1:39 pm | Matt MacMaster

"It began with a horror show. It felt wrong, like we'd wondered into a cult meeting that had accidentally summoned a demon for real."

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You'd be forgiven for thinking that creating music digitally makes it hard (if not impossible) to create truly expressive and organic work. There's a deeply ingrained sense that human pursuits are inherently analogue, and that the binary prison of digital mediums thwarts the efforts of performers and limits their potential. Artists like Oneohtrix Point Never — and indeed, most of the Warp alumni — explode that myth, creating breathtakingly detailed pieces that explore every corner of the medium, resulting in staggeringly impressive work. His show at the Joan Sutherland Theatre (with help from guitarist and visual artist Nate Boyce) was a blistering set of grinding synths and screeching vocals blended with Ambient Works-era Aphex Twin. It hurtled along like an overanxious father shoving his tired family through the It's A Small World exhibition at Disney World just as he's coming off his meds. It was frightening, but there was something burning in amongst the frosty terror that held our attention and centred the performance.

It began with a horror show. It felt wrong, like we'd wandered into a cult meeting that had accidentally summoned a demon for real. Daniel Lopatin screeched into a mic that ripped his voice apart and pieced it back together like a Cronenberg cyborg, painfully aware of its existence and wanting it to end. Boyce's guitar stabbed chords out that mimicked Oneohtrix Point Never's voice, and the song thrashed and surged until it disappeared into the void once more. The energy ebbed, allowing for an actual beat sequence to cautiously emerge, but it too was subsumed into the maelstrom before it solidified. That was the pattern of the entire show. Ambient chord patterns would gracefully unfurl only to have to compete with angry guitar fuzz. Beat outlines would form and dissolve before we could latch on, and beauty collided with digital chaos in absurd ways. Variation and repetition came and went, and behind it all experimentation and homage drove the pieces. ...And Justice For All-era Metallica raged, gorgeous Baths-style bass lines surged and wild electronic ecstasy shook the room.

It was too much for some, with walkouts happening here and there (pro tip: don't arrive 40 minutes late and leave after three songs. Do your fucking homework), but for the rest of us we were plunged into dark turbulent seas, happy to drown in the deafening waves of a mad electronic Poseidon.