Falling in love with ODESZA’s new sound

“A Moment Apart” takes listeners to a new sci-fi world

ae-ODESZA-CourtesyWikimediaCommons

“A Moment Apart” offers plenty of fresh ideas to the EDM genre.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons | Cavalier Daily

“Do you know the story of the Russian cosmonaut?” a female voice asks. Layered over a thin synth, a compressed, sampled voice softly recalls the story of a Russian astronaut whose spaceship begins ticking from the inside. However, instead of letting the ticking torture the man, the intro fades with the woman’s realization that “he must fall in love with the sound.”

So begins “A Moment Apart,” the third full-length record from Seattle-based electronic duo ODESZA. “A Moment Apart” takes the music of Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight to new heights, soaring over the initial successes of their first two albums. More importantly, “A Moment Apart” opens up a new door into the world of electronic music — focusing less on pulsing bass and dubstep synths and more on artistry, lyricism, dynamism and wonder. In many ways, the record invites and encourages listeners to fall in love with the new ideas of the electronic genre.

Following the release of the one of the album’s first single, “Line of Sight,” ODESZA faced criticism for sounding too much like popular electro-pop group The Chainsmokers. Like several of The Chainsmokers’ hits, “Line of Sight” features a male singer and a classic bass drop in the chorus. These criticisms opened up a conversation on both the traditional and emerging themes in EDM culture, spanning from the alcohol-infused lyrics, drops and pop beats from The Chainsmokers to the heavy, rattling bass tones from Bassnectar. 

Other DJs, like Marshmello and Slushii, also contribute to the popular “rave” subculture coming from EDM — complete with neon lights and psychedelics. From an artistic standpoint, electronic music has become less about the lyrics or creative endeavors and more about which artists have the largest drop and the latest night.

However, “A Moment Apart” still remains passionately ODESZA, as the duo crafts songs more lyrically profound and electronically different than other artists in their genre. The music video for “Line of Sight,” released in June, represents an image of ODESZA’s music that weaves a common thread throughout the album. Through the album’s electronic instrumentation and profoundly human lyricism, the relationship between music and machinery are powerfully juxtaposed. Sci-fi elements evoke ideas of mystery and fantasy, perfectly coupled with the beautiful and haunting music.

The record features many talented singers and musicians, which is a relatively new move from the duo. 2014’s “In Return” featured some artists, such as Zyra in famous track “Say My Name.” However, in “A Moment Apart,” ODESZA transcends electronic barriers by featuring artists from different genres and songwriting backgrounds. R&B/soul singer Leon Bridges (“River,” “Coming Home”) and alternative songwriter Regina Spektor (“Eet,” “Samson”) leave their mark, as well as lesser-known artists like RY X and WYNNE. Through these collaborations, ODESZA brings a new realm of songwriting and artistry into a genre that is mostly known for rhythm and instrumentation.

In featuring these artists, ODESZA begins to slightly diverge their electronic roots with beautifully arranged pop songs camouflaged by glistening synth and EDM elements. Sensitive pop songwriting collides with raw, sharp beats in songs like “Higher Ground” and “Across the Room.” After the former was leaked, the duo decided to release it as a fifth single for the album, and it rose quickly in their Spotify chart. In the latter, Leon Bridges sings passionately about dancing with a someone in a club. Instead of taking “Across the Room” in a direction cluttered with dubstep drops and high-threshold synths, ODESZA moves it to a more sensitive place — accompanied by easy electric piano and natural drum beats, they allow Bridges’ vocals to fill the gaps.

That’s not to say that the songs are all lyrically based — tracks like “Boy” and “Thin Floors and Tall Ceilings” explore looped, warped vocal samples, which are used as instruments. In the inspirational track “Falls” featuring singer Sasha Sloan, powerfully cinematic french horns and strings create a larger-than-life atmosphere. Other tracks such as “Late Night” and “Meridian” bring a fun vibe into the mix, evoking a sound reminiscent of a long road trip, a hike through the Alps or the feeling of a plane taking off to a new destination.

Additionally, ODESZA steps out of the classic electronic realm by introducing even more powerful synths, more elaborate vocal harmonies and larger epic choruses in the album’s final song, “Corners of the Earth.” Featuring smooth indie-electronic singer RY X, the five minute finale creates a sense of adventure and awe so rarely seen in the electronic realm. The song fluidly mixes the musical elements of a headlining show at a music festival with the power of a professional orchestra.

The Seattle duo has a way of composing and arranging electronic music that transports listeners to another world, reminiscent of the cosmos referenced in the first song. Within all the subcultures of EDM, ODESZA seems to carve a new path. “A Moment Apart” stretches EDM further into a realm of humility, hope and awe — the music is less intrusive than the other remixes and electronic projects pervasive in the genre. The duo allows listeners to knock, to test the waters and to let themselves willingly become part of something different. Before too long, one will fall in love with the sound.  

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