[30 June 2008]
If you are unfamiliar with the Odd one’s solo work, you have more than likely heard his contributions to out-there hip-hop group cLOUDDEAD. With Subtle frontman Doseone and Why? at his side, Odd Nosdam helped churn out two fantastic full-lengths and a plethora of EPs in a five-year period. Not ringing any bells? Well, in 2006, he collaborated with Mike Patton on Patton’s pop music experiment known as Peeping Tom, which featured fellow Anticon’er Jel, Kid Koala, and others. As expected, Patton and Nosdam crafted two tracks that were experimental and enticing.
In between producing for other artists and putting in time with cLOUDDEAD, Nosdam was hard at work in the lab creating his own music. Since releasing Plan 9: Meat Your Hypnotist in 2001, fans and reviewers alike have anxiously awaited their next Odd fix. And after 2007 brought the release of Nosdam’s critically acclaimed Level Live Wires—a trippy patchwork of samples and sounds—that craving only grew. But rather than follow up with another full-length LP, Nosdam has put together a two-disc collection of b-sides, remixes, and original tracks. From start to finish, it’s a meandering journey that will floor you with its subtle beauty and then grab you with waves of static.
Some of the producer’s strongest efforts on Pretty Swell Explode, be it a remix or rare track, are those with strong shoegaze influences. Opener “Untitled Three” is a distorted, swirling ride that hits its peak with guest Jessica Bailiff’s dreamy vocals. The same goes for Nosdam’s reworking of Australian shoegazers Serena-Maneesh’s “Don’t Come Down Here”. The drums bang and crunch behind a riff-driven wall of sound as frontman Emil Nikolaisen’s vocals fade in and out. And all the while, an acoustic guitar jumps in every so often to gracefully chug the track along. Then there is the absolutely gorgeous “Untitled Sketch”, which once again features Bailiff’s ethereal singing. A gentle ambient synth, which sounds a hell of a lot like white noise, guides you in before thunderous drums hit.
An odd (no pun intended) standout is the remix of “Ligaya” by labelmates Alias & Tarsier. Nosdam’s drums and synths turn the track into something primed for a European dance party. He also uses the vocals as both an instrument and as a means of adding emotion to the song. Another topnotch effort is the built-from-scratch cover of Black Moth Super Rainbow’s “Forever Heavy”. Jel, Bailiff, and Nosdam take the song to new, spacey heights while both staying true to the original and adding another layer to its canvas. As good as all these songs are, the album is not all perfect. Nosdam’s dub version of Skyrider’s “No Good”, for example, starts off strong, but it becomes borderline obnoxious in its repetition.
The rarities on here, which include “Cut” and “My Prayer Rug”, tend to stay within the boundaries of Nosdam’s previous work. And, of course, that makes a lot of sense since most of them are leftovers from albums like Burner. On “My Prayer Rug”, the lush atmospherics drone on throughout while electronic drums smash their way in. “Bear Hug”, a buried cLOUDDEAD treasure, does much of the same, though it’s a few minutes shorter.
To put it simply, fans of Nosdam will absolutely eat this collection up. The tracks on here, from the b-sides to the rarities, are just more examples of his unbelievable knack for making ambient music truly interesting. Although new listeners might be scared away by some of the more left-field songs, everyone should make sure to check this out and at least get a taste of Odd Nosdam.