With a more expansive sound, Odesza charts its own future in EDM

Tonje Thilesen
Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight of Odesza.

Most serious rave-goers have a few theories about the future of electronic music, a genre that has felt so in flux these past few years that publications as major as Pitchfork and Forbes have commented on the “EDM bubble-burst,” an industry shift they link to an oversaturated market populated by pricey festivals and overpaid acts.

Additionally, a new generation of EDM icons on the scale of Deadmau5 and Avicii has failed to materialize, paving the way for countless pop-EDM hybrids (think the Chainsmokers partnering with Coldplay, or, more recently, Selena Gomez working with Marshmello) that possess DJ-driven production style without straying far from pop generics.

To Odesza, today one of electronic music’s biggest acts, the genre’s recent mutations in the mainstream have been fascinating to watch — and daunting to analyze.


The Seattle-based duo — who spoke by phone ahead of a sold-out two-night stop at the House of Blues on Monday and Tuesday — say that, for as crowded as EDM has become recently, most of its prominent figures are at a loss to predict how the genre might evolve.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“We’re in a really strange time in music,” says Harrison Mills, 28, who formed Odesza with then-classmate Clayton Knight back in 2012, shortly before the pair graduated from Western Washington University. “Electronic has really hit the peak of where it’s going to be.”

Both Mills and Knight watched as the once-underground EDM scene through which they shot to superstardom just five years ago reached a kind of saturation point, assimilating into Top 10 territory and shedding a sense of distinct direction in the process.

“Last year, everyone knew where the electronic scene was going,” says Knight, 29. “There was this big room house, future-based sound and, before that, trap was kind of huge. Now, it’s kind of drifting in such a way that I don’t know if anyone really knows what the real next step is, if there even is one.”

Though that uncertainty has stymied other artists, both Odesza members say it proved a motivational force in their music-making.


“[Electronic music] has a lot of people in it doing similar things, and we always want to push ourselves and create our own lane constantly,” explains Mills. “We always have to experiment.”

Working on their third and most recent record, “A Moment Apart,” the duo felt uniquely well-positioned to pioneer a fresh direction for electronic music, one rooted in the kinds of cinematic tones and immersive soundscapes that have long entranced them both as listeners and creators.

Accordingly, “A Moment Apart” is Odesza’s most panoramic record, fusing ethereal, stratosphere-stretching vocals (Naomi Wild on the euphoric “Higher Ground,” Regina Spektor on the haunting “Just a Memory”) with textured beats and a sweeping sense of atmosphere, meditative drumbeats, and swirls of longing strings.

The disc’s reception, they say, has been tremendous; in addition to debuting at No. 3 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart back in September, and topping its electronic-specific rankings, the album is Grammy-nominated in two categories: best dance/electronic album and best dance recording (for the single “Line of Sight”).

“We’ve had these grandiose cinematic landscapes [in mind] for a while, but we didn’t have the means to pull them off,” says Knight, who considers the disc emblematic of Odesza’s growth. “I think we got to a point recently where our production abilities were able to generate the sounds inside our heads.”


One major catalyst for “A Moment Apart” was the global touring Odesza did after their 2014 album, “In Return,” which yielded the hit “Say My Name.” Traveling the world, says Knight, the pair kept their ears to the ground, whether they were exploring South America around a Lollapalooza set or attending a Latin Night after a show in Cologne, Germany.

‘We’ve had these grandiose cinematic landscapes [in mind] for a while. . . . I think we got to a point recently where our production abilities were able to generate the sounds inside our heads.’

— Clayton Knight, on his work with Harrison Mills on Odesza’s “A Moment Apart” 

“We were focused on finding sounds that wouldn’t traditionally fit together, different combinations of those sounds, and building pieces that take from all over the world,” Knight explains.

In preparing to take the record on tour, the duo — famed for resplendent, high-energy live sets — spent months reconfiguring their setup.

“We revamped the entire set from the ground up, reworking all the audio, lighting, and visuals,” says Knight. High on Odesza’s priority list was accommodating additional musicians they’ve enlisted across the past few years. Unlike on previous tours, where Mills and Knight performed solo tapping on drum pads, the duo is now joined by a drumline, a guitarist, and a horn section.

“We keep adding layers,” says Mills, noting he’s keen to see how audiences in Boston respond to the show they’ve crafted. “Now that we’re more in the groove, we can sit back and enjoy [performing] more.”

“You guys do get quite a bit of music, so you’re educated in the scene,” Knight says of Boston audiences. “And you have a huge amount of young people coming out to shows, which brings a huge amount of energy — and I really look forward to that.”

Isaac Feldberg can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @isaacfeldberg.