Burner is a culmination, a high water mark, a work that undeniably declares the presence of an artist who has ripened into his prime. A radical departure from odd nosdam’s past productions, Burner is a dense composition in which the seams between found sound, obscure records, a wide range of instruments and instrumentalists, vocalists, and field recordings are expertly concealed. His trademark lo-fi aesthetic--familiar to listeners of both cLOUDDEAD albums and his previous collections of instrumental sketches--has lately evolved a rare harmony between his G4 and his trusty cassette 8-track, between precision and tape saturation, between clean arrangement and the spare, effective use of space, drone, and fracture. His unique sense of composition, rhythms of headnod simplicity, balls-out emotional dynamics, intricate sonic embellishments, psychedelic coloring, lush ambient bliss-outs, and scrupulous pacing, all combine into an immersive, genre defying whole. There is no use labeling it pop, emo-ambient, dirty loop, space rock, or hipnotica. It is all these and more and none of the above.
Burner is, in the artist’s words, “an emotional roller coaster ride, meant to be experienced like a film.” The elaboration of the compositional integrity of his work is accomplished in part by his conducting of an illustrious cast of collaborators including, among others, Dosh, Andrew Broder of Fog, Orvar Smarason of Mum, Dax Pierson and jel of Subtle and Themselves, and Josiah Wolf and Doug McDiarmid of WHY?. The voice of Kranky Record’s Jessica Bailiff haunts the pristinely melodic "Untitled Three" (she also adds guitar to two other songs) and the vocals of the celebrated Mike Patton lifts “11th Ave. Freakout Pt. 2” to sublime heights. The sainted spirits of adventurous producers are also present, as odd nosdam has appropriated Lee "Scratch" Perry’s rhythmic spontaneity with recording and mixing, the weight of Flying Saucer Attack’s tape saturated work, Prince Paul’s keen sense of hip-hop collage, Hood’s emotional clarity, and Stars of the Lid’s intoxicating sound worlds. Burner doesn’t exist in an artistic void, however, deaf to the world outside the headphones of its composer. The noise of the neighborhood in which much of the album was made--raucous East 28th and 11th Avenue in Oakland--permeate the album, appearing first on “Choke,” climaxing in the flurry of gunshots amid the dark, melodic sediment of “Untitled Two” and concluding in a straight-up beatdown on “11th Ave. Freakout Pt. 1.” Captured simply by hanging a dictaphone from the front window of the century old Victorian nosdam once inhabited, these raw, uncensored recordings, when juxtaposed with his absorbing soundscapes, assault the senses with the unsettling reality of glamorized violence.
After all is said, written, and done, odd nosdam’s Burner may be considered not only a firm assertion of his independently-minded, post-cLOUDDEAD aesthetic voice, but also his first true masterwork.
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