Even as he's distanced himself from the notion of a concept album, Lopatin originally crafted Age Of's 13 tracks as a chronicle of four epochs depicting the Anthropocene. James Blake did away with that. "If it weren't for James Blake being like, 'Shut the fuck up with your shit,'" Lopatin told Red Bull Radio. "'Save that for your cute little opera. This is an album' … There's traces of me trying to do that and then traces of James being like, 'No.'"
From the opening track, Lopatin introduces several motifs in line with the original plot line's sweeping ambition. Contrapuntal MIDI harpsichords and cascades of chorale synths lend "Age Of" a baroque tone, but, beyond the rococo facade, shrieks and noisy thrashing loom like barbarians at the gate. It puts me in mind of the pivotal scene from Ruben Östlund's film The Square, in which a performance artist upends a fancy gala with an impersonation of an ape that descends into violence.
While Age Of breaks new ground with a series of convincing android country songs ("Babylon," "Black Snow"), the signature OPN sound pops up throughout. "Manifold" concludes with the degraded Tangerine Dream-isms he channeled for the Good Time score, while "The Station," meant to be a Jermaine Dupri-style cut for Usher, looks back to Garden Of Delete's nu metal pastiche. "Toys 2," which Lopatin has called his "proof of concept for how [he] would score a Pixar film," is an album highlight building on R Plus Seven's epic synth vistas, a bombastic symphony for organ and kazoo.
The minute-long "myriad.industries," meanwhile, is theoretical bumper music for Lopatin's reinvention of the OPN project as a production company. "That's basically me being a CEO," he told The Quietus, defining myriad.industries. "What I really want for this next phase of my work is to successfully pull off large-scale art projects—fabricating works of art that aren't just music. But to do that I need to establish some level of trust with financiers so they can say: 'I can give you a bunch of money and you'll be able to pay me back?'"
Perhaps this is why Age Of feels more like a portfolio than an album, down to Lopatin's close visual collaboration with the designer David Rudnick. Flitting through soundtrack-style pieces, pop songs and dense instrumentals spanning from post-kosmische to neo-baroque, it's a dizzying trip meant to shore up Lopatin's status as an avant-garde auteur while aiding his forays into mainstream pop culture. It'd be easy to see this album-as-prospectus approach as cynical. But whatever his motives, Lopatin has successfully broadened his scope. Age Of is the sound of an internet addict sifting through the digital ruins, part of a culture jamming legacy for future generations, should they exist.