Odesza has been a regular part of my life for the past four years, cultivating a kind of slick mystique with unorthodox samples and syncopated rhythms while providing a sonic background for quite a few ups and downs. They’ve shifted from producing mostly remixes to mostly original material and from a live duo into a full-on squad of musicians and technicians. Their music still exists in largely the same neighborhood, even with their growing list of collaborators. They brought the latest and arguably greatest production yet to the Myth nightclub in Minnesota last week for a two-night stand.
I wound up arriving a little late, missing the Foreign Family label-mate Kasbo, though I did show up in time to get a taste of the ball of weird that is Sofi Tukker live. Their music made me feel like I was on drugs. I did zero research before the show and at times, I could not quite discern what sounds were real and which my mind was plugging in to try and make sense of it. Imagine a round table with about ten LED squares attached around the edge, each with a symbol of an animal like a giraffe or dolphin on it against a bright background. Then mount that table on top of a seven-foot pole and you’d have a good idea of what Sofi Tukker’s sampler looked like. Each LED screen could be struck with a drumstick and would generate a myriad of sounds, typically drums. The male/female duo would sing and shriek, then apply a pitch-shift effect which made it sound like a much larger person took over vocals, often looping the two together to create some crazy harmonies. I felt a strange pull to their music and their special brand of weird as what would be annoying sounds on their own were combined into a somehow acceptable whole. I wouldn’t have picked them to open for Odesza, but in the end, I’m glad Odesza did.
This would be the first of a two-night stand for Odesza at Myth, a mid-size club in suburban Maplewood, which shares a parking lot with Toys R Us and a mall. The first night sold out, although it appeared that quite a few people did not show up, with a surprising amount of breathing room around the back and sides.
The Seattle duo’s music has played soundtrack for some pivotal moments and formative eras in my life, to the point where a song may represent a friend, a lover, a lost one, and to hear them play through their catalog is a little like paging through a scrapbook of my personal history. They took me on a drive through the mountains, reaching very high high’s and sinking down to some low low’s and typical of a mountain drive, there were moments of peril where I feared we might careen off a ledge and into the inky black ether. But we met no such oblivion, metaphorical or otherwise.
I feel like Odesza has a knack for creating songs that sound like you should be able to sing along with, but you actually can’t because they sample partial words or non-word sounds. “Ooh-oh-ayayyy” is an odd thing to try and sing along with. Even so, it makes for an incredible experience when you sing it with thousands of other fans.
The Odesza Drum Line has become a regular fixture of Odesza’s live performances, providing a solid rhythmic foundation on top of which the rest of their sonic material builds upon. Their role is far from strictly functional, though, as they add a theatrical element in their positioning on stage, dramatic pauses with their sticks uniformly thrust up into the air, and with an interplay of drumming where they physically lean over and play their neighbor’s drum.
At times, the stage would be lit by just the graphics on the stage-wide LED screen behind them, then streams of spotlights or lasers would cut through the darkness, and the stage would erupt in a bath of fire. It’s easy to see they’ve put a lot of work into their live production, and that every detail has been scrutinized. As a result, it was all executed flawlessly as all the pieces fit together, as all my memories and emotions were stitched together, and all of our experiences played out in parallel.
The final high point of the evening came as the duo returned to the stage after a quick break, playing through a song with just the duo playing heads down, back to back, just as simple as they started. As they progressed into the next song, one member of the drumline returned to the stage with a floor tom, a deeper sounding drum (just like the ones Harrison and Clay have set up), and began to play along. One by one, the drumline returned to the stage with more floor toms and filled the space with heavy drums, building up to an incredible crescendo. They were also playing newer and newer music, so it played out a clever sequence illustrating their progress over time in music and in live production. The lights grew brighter as well, adding more audience members to the fold and further illustrating what a short, strange trip it’s been.
Given their booming popularity, it’s a reasonable assumption that the only way for Odesza to go from here is up, but since it’s Odesza, who knows where that will actually lead. If you haven’t bought tickets for the remainder of their tour, do yourself a favor and grab a pair. You will not be sorry.