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by Philip Sherburne

September 14, 2011

Source Material: Ford & Lopatin, 'Channel Pressure'

by Philip Sherburne  |  September 14, 2011

Joel Ford and Daniel Lopatin might seem like an odd pairing. Ford's group Tigercity makes terse, danceable rock with elements of both The Rapture and The Strokes; Lopatin, as Oneohtrix Point Never, crafts trippy electronic fantasias with an evident debt to '70s synthesizer music. Together, however first operating under the name Games and now simply as Ford & Lopatin they turn their attentions to the richly emotive electronic pop of the mid- to late '80s.

This is not, of course, a particularly original idea. But no matter how thoroughly that decade would seem to have been mined for inspiration, Ford & Lopatin reveal hitherto untapped veins. They seem less interested in what consensus deems the "cool" side of the '80s underground New Wave and post-punk, electro and acid house than in its oft-derided overground manifestations. Anyone who grew up on Top 40 radio in the mid-'80s will recognize its DNA here. With their gleaming digital synths and crisp detailing, Ford & Lopatin's songs evoke the hyper-drive radio pop of acts like Mike & the Mechanics, Chris De Burgh and Jan Hammer.

It's a bold move, the musical equivalent of busting out a given style of clothing at precisely the moment of its fashion nadir. But their spirit of bricolage goes well beyond mere provocation. If we've come to expect a certain amount of historical fealty in our retro, this album does away with any kind of period-appropriate behavior. The opening "Softscum" is a good indicator of what's to follow, spinning like a radio dial through fragments of untethered synths, bird song and soft rock before collapsing into downpitched hip-hop vocals; "Break Inside" applies their rose-tinted aesthetic to contemporary R&B, in a sort of reverse of the maneuver by which Kanye sampled Mike Oldfield. Ambient experiments like "Green Fields" rub shoulders with perfect pop songs like "Joey Rogers."

The musicians describe Channel Pressure as a loose concept album about a boy, Joey Rogers, who gets sucked into a television dreamscape. Appropriately, the record is a grab bag of styles and tropes, a rag-and-bone shop full of patch cords and dusty machines.

We've attempted to decode the album's DNA: read about some of its likely forebears below, and hear even more antecedents, including Scritti Politti, Propaganda and Kate Bush, on our playlist Source Material: Ford & Lopatin.

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