Information Society are a pioneering dance band, and in their 40-year career, the group have created some fantastic, forward-thinking music. For the group’s eighth release, they continued innovating by putting out the first LP in THX Spatial Audio. On ODDFellows, the richly textured music has an almost cinematic feeling, surrounding the listener with essentially a globe of sound. Member and founder Paul Robb notes, “We’ve always been a technically adventurous band, and I think this is just another example of that.” The sentiment isn’t merely boasting but the truth, as Information Society aren’t merely a synthpop band; they’re sound collagists and sound artists. They pull in disparate sounds and elements of club music to create compelling and inventive music. ODDFellows is easily one of the year’s best records, with the band moving forward without missing a beat.
But it’s no surprise that Information Society have created such a creative record so far into their discography. Few synth bands of their time were so eccentric and versatile in creating dance music that wasn’t merely radio-ready hits but experiments in what can be stitched and sewn into club-pop. Like mad genius scientists, Information Society made their songs sound experimental and flexible. Their songs aren’t just pop songs their short, quick bursts of art. The dance club isn’t just a space for Information Society’s work to be played but an audio salon to exhibit their ingenious sounds. ODDFellows pushes the band’s futuristic sound further.
ODDFellows finds Information Society serving up a collection of electropop bangers and some slower tempo numbers, all flaunting the ingenious talent of the band members. Some of the songs recall driving, bracing 1980s synthpop of Information Society’s past, and others show that despite the band’s longevity, they’re not resting on laurels but still vibrant and vital. Instead of sounding nostalgic, songs like “Room 1904” pay homage to the New Romantic sound of the 1980s. The lyrics are urgent and beseeching, with Kurt Larson’s swooping vocals adding to the song’s vibrant melancholy. The sweeping, Euro-style “World Enough” shows that they can also perfect a London-style synthpop tune despite their Midwest background. Both songs capture the kind of tear-stained, bruised heart emotion that makes dance music so important.
But where ODDFellows shines best is when the songs sound like glorious concoctions of sounds, beats, and voices. The record’s opener, “Extraordinary Popular” is a brilliant mishmash of hip-hop, dance, and garage. The song’s production is extraordinarily gaudy and crowded, a playground of trail-and-error with vocal samples, record scratches, and buzzy synths that crash together excitingly and energetically. “Down in Flames” finds the band looking towards a slinkier, funkier beat that clashes with epic strings and walls of synthesizers. The dramatic and flamboyant “Grups” is a grand midtempo ballad that reaches for cinematic splendor.
The reason why ODDFellows is such a brilliant record is that it speaks to the band’s history, their eternal quest to innovate, as well as to respond – musically – to what’s happening to music at the moment. Though they look to their ’80s and ’90s past, they don’t wallow or coast; instead, they work to make sonically interesting but expressive music. Though so much of the album is showy and expressive of the band’s creativity, the best of ODDFellows matches the innovation with heart.
That is why a strutting pop song like “The Mymble’s Daughter” is such a crowning achievement: it marries esoteric literary references (its inspiration comes from children’s author Tove Jansson’s Moomin series), swirling melancholia, and a catchy hook. It’s the kind of quixotic blend of imagination that shows just how profoundly distinct and wonderful Information Society’s talents are.