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Odd Nosdam - Pretty Swell Explode

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Artist: Odd Nosdam

Album: Pretty Swell Explode

Label: Anticon

Review date: Jun. 11, 2008

Pretty Swell Explode, a self-described “enhanced two-disc collection” of Odd Nosdam’s remix and b-side work, begs skepticism. Even a moderate cynic would suspect a simple repackaging ploy––the dregs from a sampler’s zip disks marketed with a shiny bow on top. Then again, said cynic might not make it more than 30 seconds into the average Odd Nosdam song anyway. And what of the rest of us? In short, Pretty Swell Explode is capable of blowing your fucking mind…in slow motion.

Coming off of last year’s Level Live Wires, this double-disc includes remixes, B-sides, videos and original songs, including eight exclusive tracks. “Remixes” is a loosely derived term here, as much of Nosdam’s output sounds like a remix to start with, and some songs on Explode are outright covers. Case in point is the collection’s standout track, “Forever Heavy,” where Pittsburgh’s Black Moth Super Rainbow are given the Odd treatment, featuring Jessica Bailiff’s (Flying Saucer Attack) elegiac vocals and crafty drum programming from Jel (Subtle/Themselves). Recreated from scratch, Nosdam’s cover is punchier than the original, with a heavier helping of buzz that replaces the conspicuous use of vocoder in the original. Bailiff’s vocals are brazen at moments and barely audible at others, their buried restraint sounding from a hollow, droning cage. Her voice also finds its way into other tracks on Explode, including the opener, “Untitled Three (JB’s OG mix)” which was featured in it’s stripped-down original mix on Nosdam’s own Burner (2005), and a B-side, “Untitled Sketch.”

Explode is not without a thematic element, which starts to cohere as the second disc begins. As one track drones into another, it’s easy to lose one’s place amid the soundscape. Yet, there’s something in the oblique intricacies of Nodsam’s ambient work that refuses to be background music. It catches you starting to avert your attention elsewhere, and corrals you back with an unexpected texture or filter sweep. Before long, the EP comes to a close with “20th,” a three-and-a-half minute swell, climaxing in an ocean pressing on the eardrums that owes as much to Music for Airports as My Bloody Valentine.

As an album, Pretty Swell Explode, is not Odd Nosdam’s best, though it effectively demonstrates his acute sense of how the musical can be salvaged from the pedestrian. The remix material on the first disc is consistently on par with his previous work, and the aforementioned “Forever Heavy” figures with his best. The second disc moves much slower, and while it has less ear candy than the remixes, it gestures towards what might be a new direction.

By Chris Tabron

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