Odesza’s big-hearted electronic anthems have catapulted them to the forefront of the steadily changing EDM landscape in 2017, and their third studio album A Moment Apart, out last Friday on the storied UK electronic label Counter Records, only continues that ascent. Like their previous wok, the sixteen-track release is packed with huge, blissed out glossy songs that are peppered with guest vocalists of all sorts, but it’s the underlying current of quiet euphoria, alongside glitchy, sinuous melodies that sets this Seattle duo apart from a flooded field.
Back in 2012 when they emerged, electronic music was stuck in a brutish rut of staccato darkness and brooding, the stark barrenness and cutting sheen of the status quo had become almost punishing. In contrast, Odesza’s music offered a softness and a bold, luscious lightness that kicked off a completely fresh sound, and they’ve honed that brightness to a shimmering high point on their latest record, which hits more like the quiet, pulsing moment after the party is over, than the high of the party itself.
Odesza’s members, Harrison Mills (Catacombkid) and Clayton Knight (BeachesBeaches), both attended Western Washington University, but only connected on a musical level late in their senior year, when they began making music together and released their debut album, 2012’s Summer’s Gone shortly after.
Buoyed by local opening gigs around the Seattle area and a quickly-amassing Soundcloud following, they followed up their debut record with the 2013 My Friends Never Die EP, building even more momentum in the growing electronic music climate with a slot opening for Pretty Little Lights. By early 2014 they were on their own headlining tour — which was almost consistently sold out — and landing sets at enormous festivals, including a spot on the coveted Coachella lineup.
When they released their second full-length album, In Return in 2014, Counter Records had already snapped them up, and the duo were nominated for a Grammy for an RAC mix of one of the tracks off that second full-length, “Say My Name.” To say their momentum was building was an understatement.
And unlike many other electronic music acts, who have trouble converting their glitchy into compelling live shows, Odesza immediately had a sense of how to get all the panoramic wonder of their production into their live show. Between the label deal, the Grammy, and wildly successful tours, Odesza had already achieved several key goals — that most bands pursue across decades — in a little over two years.
So, next, in 2015, the duo sought to look bigger, beyond their own success, and started their own label/collective called Foreign Family Collective, which was actually how I discovered them. One of their artists, Big Wild, put out the song “Aftergold” through the series, and from feverish listening to that, I eventually made my way to Odesza themselves. Their role as curators on their own label held fast, and the similarities between Big Wild and Odesza turned me into a casual fan of the band — A Moment Apart turned me into something more.
It’s not surprising that their third studio album opens with a chilling clip from Another Earth — the love of narrative is woven into even the most abstract parts of their sound. It’s the story of the Russian cosmonaut, told by Brit Marling’s character in the sci-fi drama Another Earth, trapped out in outer space, he must learn to fall in love with the sound that threatens to drive him crazy.
The anecdote effectively illustrates the massive twin powers of choice and self-will in our lives, before segueing into the album’s gorgeous, true opening title track. “A Moment Apart” is marked by breath-work, crackling analogue callbacks and sweeping synths that evoke a sense of space and enormity that continues throughout the record.
The pair told Billboard they’d written fifty songs for the recod, then whittled it down to just sixteen, focusing on tracks that felt like the moment of escaping into the moonlight after the club — not at the height of a packed, sweaty crowd when the beat drops. This level of introspection and escape, of quiet after the thrill, crops up over and over on A Moment Apart, and even the title rings a little truer in the context of this framework.
Like most great production groups, the duo outsource vocals and guest features on the majority of the tracks, and their choices are strange and beautifully apt. I would never have pegged Leon Bridges for a lustful, moody club mourner, but his contribution “Across The Room” may just be the album’s standout. If it isn’t, then it’s only topped by Regina Spektor, stark and sparkling with grief on “Just A Memory.”
A personal favorite is the glory hoop finale, “Corner Of The Earth,” which includes a feature from Australian breakout, RY X, who brings a sense of early 2000s folk to the glittering closer, and is one of the touchstones on the album that makes the duo’s Seattle roots very clear.
For a group who has already achieved so much success, building off that can sometimes be tricky; many bands lose themselves, or veer off into an unconnected, unfocused direction. Instead, Odesza has achieved what often seems impossible — building off their established success without retreading the past, staying consistent without growing stagnant, and increasing their reach without alienating their core fanbase.
A Moment Apart is a triumph because it sounds like an Odesza record, while simultaneously expanding what that might mean. In 2017, EDM might be synonymous with party music, but Odesza specifically seek to defy that, imagining their music into a universe of its own, and bringing the listener along with them.
A Moment Apart is out now via Counter Records. Get it here.