Back to the Lab: On Odd Nosdam’s ‘LIF’

Will Schube takes a look at the new LP from veteran producer Odd Nosdam.
By    August 10, 2017

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Will Schube is a bad apple.

Odd Nosdam is only a beatmaker in the loosest sense of the word. The veteran producer, who made his name as an early member of the Anitcon collective, has veered away from his left-field hip-hop past into something odder, darker, and less immediately structured. His new work takes time, patience, and if possible, a bit of rain outside your window.

Gone are the days of cLOUDDEAD’s slow-cooked beats or even the earlier iterations of Nosdam’s solo career, like the scorched-highway knock of the T.I.M.E. Soundtrack from 2009. On that record, the Cincinnati-born stalwart cooks his concoctions with dusty samples and crunchy drums. It’s in stark contrast to his just released LIF, a collection of songs that play with the same warped and stretched melodies yet do away with percussion altogether.

The record moves from pieces of acid-laced ambience to Eno-indebted emotional wrecking balls. “LIF” plays with an underlying texture that stays in one place for six minutes, occasionally layering slow moving chords above it. The result is both atmospheric and trance-inducing. LIF is an ambient record in a sense, although the baseline of Nosdam’s work—a nearly tangible wavelength of manipulated melody—is too key in the album’s function to serve as an island of quiet.

“REN” is the album’s most engaging track, using skull-tingling melodic phrasings on what sounds like a depressed melodica stomped to pieces to evoke the world of ‘70s Eno. “REN” leads into the album’s finale suite of “TRO” and “BOM,” both of which continue this idea forward and end the album on a tone of bittersweet catharsis.

With Nosdam being so associated with his prior work as an underground rap pioneer, this relatively new direction is a bit staggering and takes time to become acquainted with. When cLOUDDEAD disbanded, Doseone stayed straight ahead, continuing his warpath on any rapper in his way while Yoni Wolf made a slight right, cut off the excess fat, and surrounded himself with his brother and an old pal to become WHY? Odd Nosdam spent some time exploring something similar to his cLOUDDEAD past before slamming on the brakes and changing course. LIF is still distinctly Odd Nosdam, it just takes a handful of three-letter tracks to figure that out.