Review: Odonis Odonis' new EP 'Reaction' captures the essence of their adaptive sound
For a masterclass in adapting your sound and evolving as an artist over time, one has to look no further than Toronto-based electronic trio Odonis Odonis. With their 2011 debut album 'Hollandaze', Odonis Odonis showcased their sonic palate with a blend of surf/garage and noise that somehow fit together to produce a cohesive and highly impressive debut effort. With their sophomore record in 2014, 'Hard Boiled Soft Boiled', the trio cemented themselves as one of the most exciting and adaptive acts of our time. Building on the wordplay in the title, the album was a half-and-half of hard-edged industrial music and shoegaze-influenced electronic dream pop, seamlessly divided across the two halves of the album. The album gained them instant critical acclaim and street cred and even gave them a Polaris Prize nomination alongside the likes of other established Canadian acts like Arcade Fire and Tanya Tagaq.
On their third LP, 2016's 'Post Plague', Odonis Odonis took another radical step in shaping their new sound as they shed most of their noise and fuzz for a Goth and industrial influenced sound. While they painted these new ominous swatches with their sound, the album explored themes of crippling technological dependence, making the album something of an apt soundtrack for a bleary dystopian sci-fi flick. The following year, they made another bold move by embracing the punchier sounds of EBM without completely abandoning their newly attained doom and gloom outlook. Where 'Post Plague' created a world on the brink of being subservient to our technological overlords, 'No Pop' heightened the palpable atmosphere with a more minimal, stripped down approach while re-introducing the noisy walls of sound that the trio had perfected over the years.
Now, Odonis Odonis is back with their brand new EP 'Reaction', which further builds on the saga of the previous two full-length releases. Although comprising just four tracks and spanning a total of 17 minutes, at no point does 'Reaction' feel like a collection of B-sides that did not make it to the final cut of the 'No Pop' LP. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Written and recorded while the band was touring in support of the 'No Pop' LP, each of the four tracks on the new EP is carved to perfection - a result of the trio introducing the tracks to audiences at live gigs and whitling away at the core of each song till they arrived at something that clicked. In this sense, the EP's title gains more meaning as the tracks were fine-tuned with inputs from their live gigs, where the atmosphere and "reaction" of the fans acted as the metaphorical touchstone. The result is a highly crisp and concise EP that effectively captures the live essence and spontaneity of the band.
The EP opens with the languid opener 'Collector', which stirs to life with a fuzzy, swelling wall of noise that launches itself into a heavy, sludgy riff driven by resounding, thunderous bass and kicks that could set the beat for the march of an army of the undead. It sets the scene for post-apocalyptic doom, picking up exactly where the band left off with 'No Pop' and setting the tone for the rest of the four-track EP. Vocalist/synth player Dean Tzenos sings with a sense of foreboding that crawls under your skin and just when you start to get comfortable with the groove, Odonis Odonis clips the song midway for a brief interlude of a shrill, eerie Gothic howl, only to return to the blaring synths again.
'Collector' slides seamlessly into the haunting and atmospheric 'Promise' which dials down the noise from the previous track to open up the production to accentuate the twisty, winding synths. Over the synths and the skittering drums, Tzenos' vocals build the tension further - first with gasps and whispers and then with a guttural howl of desperation.
On the EP highlight 'Insect', the trio picks up the tempo with a tempo and rhythm more suited for a club banger. But make no mistake - this is no happy dance number unless you're the kind that likes moving your feet to the backdrop of the world melting into an apocalyptic wasteland. The dissonance between the dancey beats and the sudden bursts of industrial/noise rock is just another example that shows the craftiness of Odonis Odonis' compositions. The track builds to a climax at the end as Tzenos' wails and the heavily distorted synths relentlessly drill into your head.
The intro to the album closer 'The Rip' provides a moment of welcome respite after the all-out attack of 'Insect'. Easily the most accessible and cohesive track on the album, 'The Rip' sees Tzenos howl like a wolf at the moon before harping on the refrain "time stops for good" as the EP grinds to a halt. Produced, mixed, and mastered by the band themselves with no outside help, 'Reaction' strips away all of the excesses to hold a mirror up to the band's current form. 'Reaction' could be the final stop before Odonis Odonis switches their game up again and it'll be quite interesting to see what else they dare to experiment with their next full-length record.
It's a great day for electronic music. While The Chemical Brothers steal the spotlight today with perhaps their most ambitious studio effort in 20 years, it would definitely pay off for electronic fans to pay attention to what's happening outside the mainstream too, because Odonis Odonis is definitely showing the mettle to catapult themselves into the spotlight soon.