Do Robots Roll on Electric Ecstasy? (Or: How a Luddite Opened His Ears and Eyes)
A friend and I discussed what makes a truly worthwhile live musical experience. So many times we have been to shows where you were watching what amounted to animatronic musicians projecting pre-recorded music. It would have been easier to just stay home and listen to the records (and the drinks would have been much cheaper, too. Ever tried Schaefer’s?).
Sometimes a band will mask (pun) the fact that they’re phoning it in musically by distracting the audience with dazzling pyro and slumping bodies hidden away in jumpsuits (Kiss obviously being the most successful practitioners in that field).
But what makes a truly worthwhile musical experience, if we are trying following the “record-to-live” criteria, is how a band can capture the feel of what makes them unique on the record while still providing fresh insights into their talent that can only be experienced when occupying the same space. Going to see Odesza at Port City gave me this type of experience.
I must confess that I know next to nothing about electronic music/electro-pop. My knowledge starts and ends with Brian Eno (does he count? Illuminate me, hepcats). But I was really impressed with Odeszas’s 2014 record In Return. What was interesting about the album was their ability to mix groove, ambience, and melody, their blending of the anxious and the ethereal together in a way that worked most successfully by taking the album as a whole.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to see them. I don’t know what the hell DJ’s do on stage, and I probably never will. I assumed they would hit a couple of buttons on their mixers and let the album play in its entirety while they sat in chairs and read the funny pages. Meanwhile scores of fans rolling on ecstasy would begin grooving with their eyes closed, their heads filled with kitty cats, puppy dogs, and rhombi (I had this alllll figured out).
Though I’m pretty sure I’m correct about the drug taking and the geometric projections, I was wrong about Odesza’s live presence. They came out swinging and rarely let up for the duration of the show. This was not the beautifully brooding sounds of In Return I was hearing, but rather a much more aggressive sound, in tune with the energy of the venue, and it was hard for anyone to stay still. (I, being an old person, was sitting down the whole show. But I assure you my left knee was dancing up a storm.)
There were still traces of the melodic element that featured so prevalently on the album (the prevalence on In Return was due to the use of several guest vocalists, none of whom could corporally be at the show). But the aggressiveness was provided by a much more pronounced emphasis on groove, especially from the bass that had been cranked up well past polite levels. It was definitely worth the money (Note: I got free tickets) to see the Seattle duo live and experience their ferocious side, as opposed to my more contemplative experience with In Return.
Has this helped me have a better appreciation for electronic music? Yes. Will I continue to follow the career of Odesza? Yes. Will I be allowed to write another review? I don’t know.