A group such as Ford & Lopatin can only exist on sincerity. Any hint of irony and there’s a good chance the music will lean towards novelty. It’s something of a blessing, then, that Joel Ford (of Tigercity) and Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never) preemptively switched from the conceptually appropriate but cheeky Games moniker to their surnames. It’s a move that not only goes a long way towards legitimizing the project, but at the same time manages to align the duo with a legacy of synth-based architects stretching from Cluster & Eno and Harmonia to Tangerine Dream, Harald Grosskopf, and Nuno Canavarro. Sonically, however, Ford & Lopatin mostly dig on ‘80s gameshow kitsch and B-movie nostalgia, and “Emergency Room,” our first taste from the duo’s debut full-length Channel Pressure, aptly serves as both a solidification of their aesthetic and as a very serious update of vintage synth-pop production.
Before I even heard the track, Scott had relayed a comparison to Max Tundra, which certainly piqued my interest after the fun but slight day-glo pop gestures of the previous Games EP, That We Can Play (2010). And the correlation holds, particularly with the high, mechanically enhanced vocals, even if Ford & Lopatin haven’t yet added a lyrical dimension to match that of a Max Tundra. What we get instead is almost all surface level pleasure, which could potentially hamper the music’s longevity if the immediacy of the track didn’t keep the listener’s mind wrapped in childhood fantasia with their eyes oblivious to the implications of life’s oncoming ordeals. Riding a sleek bass pulse with light splashes of guitar and synth noise accenting each measure, “Emergency Room” lifts off infectiously yet never surrenders too tiredly to the groove, instead short-circuiting and rebuilding almost imperceptibly, as if to facilitate a breather for a potential protagonist as he or she flees amidst some future-shock sci-fi utopia. And just like most every cult film favorite from the era, “Emergency Room” is entertaining to a fault, with little gravity to funnel emotion but a wide-eyed vision of a musical landscape brave enough to embrace a past many would have us believe never existed. [CMG]