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Ford & Lopatin's synthesizer Games-manship

June 16, 2011 |  2:05 pm

A few months ago, I had lunch with Kevin Moo, the founder of Low End Theory, to talk about some upcoming sets at his club night. He seemed especially excited about a few expermental and decidedly unbeat-heavy acts coming through; in summing up their sonic ethic, he admitted, "It's kind of been all about the high end lately." 

We stopped and laughed at the accidental oxymoron, but for one of the artists he was referring to, producer Daniel Lopatin, it kind of rings true. His solo project Oneohtrix Point Never is an exercise in putting ambient reins on vicious white noise, but his new Brooklyn-based duo Ford & Lopatin (with collaborator Joel Ford) does something arguably more difficult on its debut album, "Channel Pressure" -- a truly imaginative take on '80s synth nostalgia with a knowing wink to soft-rock fromage.

The duo used to record under the un-Google-able moniker Games, and the old name was apt -- this is music with a sense of humor about itself and its source material.  The supremely hokey animated video for "World of Regret" makes that clear, but they mangle and rebuild their reference points with so much skill that it all feels singular to them. "Emergency Room" riffs on Gary Numan's bass-heavy bleats, but pairs it with sweeter vocals and a restlessness with samples that proves they know exactly what they're up to; "Too Much MIDI (Please Forgive Me)" has, in fact, the correct amount of MIDI programming to hit the same sweet spot of sun-damaged computer funk as their fellow travellers Nite Jewel, and the joke of its title never overwhelms the vibe or the precision of the arrangements.

The duo play a release party for "Channel Pressure" at the Echoplex tonight (bolstered by a solid undercard of Telepathe and Sun Araw). Those fearing a surplus of MIDI might want to steer clear, but for the rest of us, it might be a useful reminder that music can be funny and seriously capable at the same time.

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-- August Brown  

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