On Magic Oneohtrix Point Never, Daniel Lopatin's exploration of nostalgia finally loops on itself. Lopatin made the album largely in solitude during the COVID-19 pandemic, using his time alone to draw inspiration from his early days. At the heart of Magic Oneohtrix Point Never is his lifelong love of radio. He credits the freeform and college stations he listened to in his youth for his omnivorous musical taste; Oneohtrix Point Never itself is a mondegreen of the Boston adult contemporary station Magic 106.7. Lopatin builds on radio's power to connect people through music even from a distance, and the way he combines all the facets of his music feels like going up and down the dial. The flowing synth instrumentals of his earliest work sit next to Garden of Delete and Age Of's subverted pop songs, and they're all surrounded by collages of DJ chatter that hark back to Replica's nimble plunderphonics.
Judging by the sheer amount of musical and conceptual territory Lopatin covers, Magic Oneohtrix Point Never could be an intimidatingly dense album, but it's actually remarkably engaging, especially when compared to the more overtly ambitious Age Of. The record's radio-friendly accessibility brings more cohesion, more humanity, and more intimacy to Oneohtrix Point Never's music. While the individual strands of his work were frequently brilliant on their own, they play off of each other in striking fashion here. The pop songs are some of Lopatin's finest, spanning the deceptively bouncy "I Don't Love Me Anymore" to the Garden of Delete-esque dirge "Lost But Never Alone." The dazzling chamber-meets-synth pop of "Long Road Home" is graced by Caroline Polachek's ghostly vocals, yet the album's most prominent cameo is almost anonymous: the Weeknd's processed voice is just part of the lush textures of "No Nightmares"' deconstructed power balladry.
Lopatin's commitment to turning forgotten pieces of pop culture into social commentary remains as strong as ever. The interludes woven through the album use "format flips" -- the moment when a DJ signs off one last time before a radio station changes its format -- to state the themes of memories and obsolescence poignantly: "The country will not die...it will just have a new home," a disc jockey muses on "Cross Talk IV/Radio Lonelys." Lopatin's fondness for new age music -- one of the final frontiers for music geeks looking to unearth forgotten treasures -- gets its due on "The Whether Channel," a lovely liminal space dotted with bubbly melodies and found sounds. Its blissful yet slightly uneasy feeling extends to similarly subtle highlights like the delicate "Imago," where a sample of someone saying "Imagine it/Listen..." stretches out toward the horizon, and "Wave Idea," where the call-and-response of fluttering melodies evokes a shared experience. By tuning in to his past, Lopatin shares something special with his audience. Equally challenging and comforting, Magic Oneohtrix Point Never just might be the album that moves listeners who appreciated, but didn't fully embrace, his previous music.