posted by Lu
November 2020

If I were to extend my right arm, something that would briefly steal your attention is a tattoo of particular shape located on my bicep. This shape already has a name, but to many of the devotees of the Electronic duo – this is simply known as the “ODESZA symbol” and there are thousands of people across the globe who’ve been inspired to tattoo the “ODESZA symbol” somewhere on their body.

This symbol appears on their albums, on their merch and hovers majestically during their live shows. For those who are repeatedly exposed to it through binging ODESZA albums, I’m sure this symbol has stirred curiosity and questions of how it relates to their music - and that’s exactly what we get into in this piece.

So What Is the “ODESZA Symbol?”

It’s called an icosahedron and originally it’s a polyhedron with 20 faces. Although for their logo the duo has opted for a minimalist feel by stripping the shape of its numerous faces and presenting a 2D rendition. Believe it or not, this polyhedron actually dates back before Christ as it was discovered by the early Pythagoreans around 450 B.C and falls under the 5 Platonic solids which also include the cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, and tetrahedron. What sets the icosahedron apart, however, is the fact that it is the first example of a geometrical object that was a free creation of human thought, not the result of observations in nature.

The Philosophy Behind the “ODESZA Symbol”

So this is where things get interesting… Greek philosopher Plato associated the solids with the elements commonly believed to make up all matter in the universe. So he identified fire with the tetrahedron, earth with the cube, air with the octahedron, the cosmos with the dodecahedron, and finally water with the icosahedron.  Water is all about movement and change, the flow of life. And if we track the discography of ODESZA from their first album to their most recent work, the sound of the duo has changed immensely. Within the projects, we’re also acquainted with a seamless, river-like cohesion from the beginning until the end.   

Apart from the Plato reference, the numerous faces bonded to the icosahedron is the primary reason why ODESZA felt the symbol was an accurate representation of what they do. Have a look at this quote below from a reddit AMA (ask me anything).

"The icosahedron represents all the different genres and styles we incorporate into our sound and bring together into a cohesive track/album. This is represented by these different pieces coming together to build an iconic shape."

The Different Faces of Summer’s Gone

ODESZA’s debut album Summer’s Gone arrived during a time where Electronic music was synonymous with EDM as engulfing drops and glossy synths were in vogue. Even though EDM is one of the faces that influenced Summer’s Gone, what ODESZA did is essentially create EDM music for people who aren’t entirely into EDM. Compared to popular electronic releases of the time, the twosome adopted an atmospheric and texturally rich sound informed by samples and ridiculously unforgettable melodies. A year after the album dropped we actually did an interview with ODESZA.

The faces of Summer’s Gone are quite sporadic as you’ll find styles derived from Motown, to ambient and to tribal elements. I can’t neglect to mention that Brainfeeder releases, Mr.Carmack, and Lapalux were on constant rotation for ODESZA during its creation process. With such a wide range of genre-blending, they seamlessly drifted into an ‘experimental electronica’ lane which they still somewhat occupy to this day. 

ODESZA · Summer's Gone

The Different Faces of In Return

In Return is the album where one could question ODESZA’s ‘experimental electronica’ tag as their sound became more accessible. ‘Organic Future Bass’ (find out more about Future Bass) and pop were certainly in the driving seat by virtue of the number of guest vocalists, and the hip hop influence which marginally permeated into their aesthetic. When asked about this during an interview with Acclaim Magazine, they stated:

“Yeah. I mean, we like pop music too. It’s just something we wanted to try and on this new album, we were thinking ‘what can we do that we haven’t done before?’ And one of them was ‘let’s make a pop song’. We had never really made a pop song and that’s what Say My Name ended up being. It was just something fun. It’s kind of an ode to what we love.”

You’ll also notice that earlier I made use of the word “Organic”, and that’s a nod to the continuous ‘world music’ faces that appear through multi-colored percussion layers, ethnic instrumentation, and vocal samples from non-western regions. I guess it wouldn’t be a surprise if I mentioned Bonobo is a vital inspiration for the Seattle duo, and this time they heavily gravitated towards artists such as Leon Bridges, Mura Masa and 20syl.  

ODESZA · In Return

The Different Faces of A Moment Apart

Tracks like “Kusanagi” and “Always This Late” on their previous LP hinted at ODESZA’s interest in cinema. Although on A Moment Apart ODESZA no longer hints, and totally immerses listeners in an enchanting cinematic experience whilst holding onto their ‘tribal’ and electronic inspirations. Their guest collaborators traverse the realms of indie, soul, and pop, although regardless of their backgrounds they naturally harbored a sense of ‘epicness’ in their performances too. It’s safe to say that A Moment Apart was built on the foundations of orchestral, cinematic, and ambient elements.  

[Read more: Album Review - A Moment Apart]

But that’s not all…

“It’s very important for us to touch on a lot of different styles and genres and do it all in a way that flows cohesively. And it’s very hard to play a hip hop track, ambient song and a dance section and make it feel like its all one band. So we do a lot of things to try make it this big cinematic experience and a fun show to dance to.”

This quote is from an interview with Cochella in 2018. The type of live experience they wish to deliver is another factor that seeps into their production process – call it another face if you will. High energy moments are typically acquainted with the tracks which lean towards electronica (“Higher Ground” and “Late Night” for example), and the serene moments are reserved for cinematic compositions like “Corners of the Earth” and “Just A Memory”. All in all, this creates an ebb and flow throughout the album and live show, much like the element which represents an icosahedron.

ODESZA · A Moment Apart