Cybergrunge and Future Electronics: Expert Witness with Robert Christgau

This week, Robert Christgau tackles the newest releases from Oneohtrix Point Never and Arca.

|
Dec 4 2015, 2:59pm

Welcome to Expert Witness with Robert Christgau, the self-proclaimed "Dean of American Rock Critics." He currently teaches at NYU and published multiple books throughout his life. For nearly four decades, he worked as the music editor for The Village Voice, where he created the annual Pazz & Jop poll. Every Friday, Noisey will happily publish his long-running critical column. To learn more about him and his life, read his welcome post here

Oneohtrix Point Never: Garden of Delete (Warp)

With R Plus Seven's Hammond B-3 vibe out of his system, Daniel Lopatin assembles something resembling an emotionally complex reflection on suffering humanity. Purportedly a concept album about a hypergrunge band called Kaoss Edge-no, there is no such thing as "hypergrunge" (so far), but that doesn't stop Kaoss Edge from having a website—it's as coherent as Lopatin wants it to be. Read along with the hyperautotune lyrics of "Sticky Drama" and hear an alt-teen pencil-dick love song transmute into an alt-contrarian death-metal horrorshow; read along with the cute-sounding electro-munchkin lyrics of "Animals" and learn they're about cages and worse. But the music is more playful and frankly interesting than these dark themes suggest—and also more multifacted, virtuosic, and urban than Lopatin's excellent stealth-pastoral Replica. I credit this healthy paradox to the guy's irrepressible sonic imagination. His mind may believe the earth is one big disaster area. But even so he remains a clever, funny dude who enjoys his musique concrete collages too much to set his sights on distant galaxies. A MINUS

Arca: Mutant (Mute)

Initially, I spun this album to get rid of it—to insure that, as with most unmarked CDs in jewelcases lacking title and slug line, it was safe to stick it where the laser don't shine. Only after I realized how impressed I was by these grooveless, tuneless electronic instrumentals did I make out on the back cover the birthname of my old NYU student Alejandro Ghersi—who as Arca has since become a Yeezus collaborator and Fader cover boy as well as co-producing a Björk album I'll leave to her fanbase. In other words, I really liked this music before I knew I knew its creator. Those who claim it has a structure as opposed to a sequence are probably imagining things. But the tunelessness of the music doesn't always mean it's amelodic and the groovelessness rarely means it stands still. My faves often tie in alien elements—"Umbilical" with its Mbuti chant, "Sinner" with its virtual bellows breathing in and out, "Faggot" with its bells-and-choirboy undergirding and stuttering aggro finale. But tune in anytime during this 20-track hour and chances are you'll hear something you've never heard before—and want to hear it again, to make sure you were right the first time. A MINUS

Arca: Stretch 2 (UNO NYC)

So what's going on in these nine, to quote the experts, "misshapen," "warped, hellish," "floridly mutant" "hymns to God knows what"? I direct you to "Laughing at Scary Voices," a consideration of Swedish electro-mutants the Knife in the February, 2011 Perfect Sound Forever by none other than Alejandro Ghersi. To wit: "David Lynch and Charles Burns and the Knife approach haunting images, absurdity, unappealing humans, and loneliness in all of their work." However: "The Knife's lyrics resist parsing in the same way that Lynch's Mulholland Drive timeline resists parsing and Burns's Black Hole resists being taken seriously." So therefore: "The only thing we can do with certainty is laugh at the dark world they've created and, in the process, laugh at our own undeniably fucked up society." You go on from there. B PLUS

***

The Knife: Shaken-Up Versions (Brille/Mute) They're only remixes, generally of songs fans already love, but they do shake quite a bit of action ("Got 2 Let U," "Pass This On") ***

Arca: Stretch 1 (UNO NYC) Making up his own language more mischievously than doomsayers have ears to discern ("Ass Swung Low," "Dignity") ***

Arca: Xen (Mute) Striking and unpresumptuous, albeit residually quasisymphonic, but I do get happier every time he interjects half a hook ("Lonely Thugg," "Xen") **

Follow Robert Christgau on Twitter and read the archives of his criticism on his website

--