Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight – collectively known as Seattle chillwavers Odesza first met at university and quickly dropped their first album Summer’s Gone in 2012. They followed it up with the EP My Friends Never Die a couple of months later and nearly two years to the day since their debut (one that was pretty aptly named for a band from the USA’s notoriously cloudy northwest), they return with, well, another pretty appropriately titled LP – In Return.
It starts with the sticky beats, mangled vocal/guitar samples and chiming synth beds of Always This Late. The shining reverbs belie their overcast city of origin and there’s a sense of summery relaxation that sets the tone for the ensuing 40-odd minutes. That sense of ease is reinforced – if a little bent by way of some haywire synth sequencing and late-night atmospherics – by single Say My Name featuring the sultry, direct vocals of British up-and-comer Zyra. Bloom takes some influence from the Trap genre and feeds it through the sun-dappled Odesza prism before the futurist R&B of All We Need showcases the vocal talents of Portland’s Shy Girls to great effect.
The thumping swells of Sundara build to an earthy, half-time climax and the wonky electro-soul of White Lies are treated with a gorgeous vocal tapestry courtesy of fellow Seattle native Jenni Potts. Her range is truly remarkable and the candour in her breathy delivery juxtaposes the glitched out groove incredibly. Kusanagi utilizes some ambient chimes and hazy, sunset drones for its first minute or so before proving that these guys truly know their way around a sampler with a human feel that’s thankfully creeping into more and more electronica as the years roll on.
London artist Py lends her soulful croon to the dynamic tour-de-force of Echoes before Zyra makes another appearance bringing her adorable English inflections to It’s Only – a dystopian ballad that once more show’s off the deft abilities of Mills and Knight with a sequencer and centers around the emotional heft of the lyric “It’s only water/It’s only fire/It’s only love”. Koto is bound to draw some comparisons to Aussie EDM sensation Flume but still stays true to the aesthetic of wonder Odesza have created throughout the entirety of In Return with bit-crushed bass and lush harp samples peppered throughout.
Memories That You Call sees the duo team up with India’s Monsoonsiren who claims in his bio that he makes “cinematic funeral music” and his description of his sound isn’t too far off. Like the rest of In Return though, it’s a little sunnier than a funeral and probably the most anthemic song on the record. The pitch-shifted vocal acrobatics of Michigan singer Madelyn Grant dart and weave in between some of the more traditionally “electronic” moments of the record before things wrap up with the reverb-doused banger For Us which features yet another Seattle local Briana Marela whose vocals are simultaneously intimate and otherworldly.
In Return is a record that can serve as the soundtrack to a lazy summer afternoon just as easily as it can provide some late-night headphone comfort. It’s this duality that sets it apart from a lot of electronica coming out of late and Odesza’s star is continuing to rise with every release they put out. With an almost sold-out US tour ahead of them over the coming months, it seems like they’ve already made a name for themselves with their particular sound and show no signs of abating any time soon.