More than a year ago upon first hearing it, I was taken aback by the chiptune-like arpeggio in the opening track but subsequently discovered the sparkling loveliness adorning the rest of the 40 minutes. The impression still persists. But somehow the light of the gems suddenly was able to pierce through my heart as I picked it up again, perhaps because my BoC fever has finally receded to a healthy level.
If Boards of Canada evokes imagery of my world view and abstract emotions, then maybe R Plus Seven by Oneohtrix Point Never is more like a personality portrait. Be it an individual track or the flow of the entire album – if there exists in it such a thing as a flow at all – unexpected turns of events or an abrupt abortion of an ongoing theme can occur anytime anywhere. And of course it never happens in an unpleasant way –
After the ostentatious opening, ‘Americans’ brings twenty seconds of calming air from a distant afternoon playground before a rapid change of focus on a secret garden rising out of a fresh downpour. The dazzling young green rocking up and down as dewdrops roll off is my first favorite melodic moment. I could stare at this for hours but no lingering is allowed. A long interval of fast-forward with space warping and human voice jittering throws me onto the clouds and left me gradually descending into the world of Botanicula, where the sap running through the transparent leaves resonate with peculiar little creatures making their own noises. The unique signature of choral elements in R+7 is notable for the first time. At first, one bright-eyed creature sings a note or two and immediately disappears to give way to another. The tiny random contributions thus piece together rhythmic patterns that friskily hop into different keys.
All that vanishes before my eyes and a short practice session ‘He She’ makes the transition to a hushed ‘Inside World’. The female vocal has a sparse but coherent line accompanied by broken pieces of sounds. It feels as if hearing my cell splitting and blood circulating with slight irregularity. Then comes the gliding waves gently pushing me to the realm of mind. It too is so brief that soon the first theme returns again.
And before I am drowned in my inner bodily reflection, ‘Zebra’ lashes out its briskness at full force. The first theme is repeated for two minutes with naughty brass and joyous choir scattered around before it breaks down and comes back to a state of ‘Inside World’. Fragmented electronic church bells sway in the ambiance; random horn melody wanders aimlessly further and further away. And then a prolonged pause.
Like every andante movement that easily gets overshadowed by the exuberance preceding and following it, the billowing ‘Along’ became detectable to me only much later. I hold my breathe to wait for the haze to clear up. Revealed before me is a transparent yet mysterious night sky that invites me to listen to my own tiptoeing heartbeats symbolized by the intermittent bass. On a breezy evening like this, I’m propped on my elbow at the windowsill all by myself, staring into the distance. That floating synth as distant as you are unreachable, wakes up memories of how every particle was excited as the world was altered by your presence. Then I stroll through the gallery of all these moments – now delighted and sang a few chorally notes, now sentimental and sighed mournfully. A cuckoo bird would love to ride on this fluctuating flow. But it could not grasp it. It will never understand the secret little feelings that I harbor… Slightly distorted bittersweetness, disarrayed emotions, the truthful youth… the fragility that induces smile with dewy eyes.
At this still moment, unexpectedly, cavalries of arpeggio charged upon my curled self and the defenseless attention is instantly diverted. They are not enemies though. Layers and layers of monofunctional voices arrive at the scene of ‘Problem Area’ and the choir gradually reinstates harmony. The church organ signifies the time to leave. But “wait…” Let’s do a final round in that healthy moderato (in the electronic music sense, of course) before a somewhat murky atmosphere takes over. But ‘Cryo’ is really about being born anew into empty calmness so as to move onto the next chapter memoryless.
‘Still Life’ starts out with quite some labour. A spontaneous pause leaves the slowly dampened out bass especially visible. It is followed by a series of fleeting moments of gleaming inspiration and angelic revelation! But in no time everything comes to naught. An unrelated parallel of constant daydreaming glides by. And the focus is again set upon the previous theme. But without further exposition, it rose straight to a kind of immenseness that calls to mind more of Garden of Delete – me being non-causal.
The finale reiterates the central role of the choir element. Lively piano preludes introduce children’s voice to the foreground, sometimes responded to by a female instructor. The singing is so discontinuous that it feels like a recollection from a certain golden afternoon, echoing the beginning. Touched by the purifying essence of singing, the church organ unleashes its power that reverberated for a long time in the ‘Chrome Country’. The straightforward, unnaturally simplified representation of instruments sound almost like what comes out of toy pianos, toy organs from a miniature dollhouse. Indeed, it has always been a childish depiction of the exterior as well as the interior worlds since the opening track, yet so sincere and genuine the emotions it is capable of triggering.
And is it true that I fail to notice until now the stark absence of drums in this album? Remarkably, it seems the whole adventure is powered by the rhythmical wonder of seemingly blatant arpeggios, invigorating choral snippets and perhaps most of all, the bass that possesses a jellyfish-like propelling mechanism.