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Oda is Live: A Portal to Intentional Listening

Earlier in October the New York-based concern Oda unveiled a first-generation speaker and performance system that was years in the making. Though envisioned and prototyped long before the pandemic shuttered in-person communal listening, its arrival offers a glimpse at one fresh avenue for performance in Our New Reality.

The pitch is ingeniously basic (and absolutely in alignment with the In Sheep’s Clothing ethos): A gorgeous pair of square speakers about the size of album covers and as thick as Bear Family box sets that are designed as a portal to performance spaces, rehearsal studios or basements around the world and devoted to intentional, uninterrupted listening. 

Connected to a little black wi-fi box that links to Oda’s broadcast, the wooden speakers offer one-button access to musicians’ turf on their terms. The speakers, say Oda, “are designed to sound best when playing our performances, but you can also play your own music using bluetooth or a line-in connection.”

A pair of Oda speakers in one ISC operative’s home (on either side of a Dust-to-Digital box set that resembles them).

The platform was imagined in 2016 after Mount Eerie/Microphones founder Phil Elverum stopped touring due to personal circumstances. 

Oda founder Nick Dangerfield pitched Elverum on an idea, according to the company’s pre-release literature: He’d build 50 speakers “that would be connected to an app on Elverum’s phone. Whenever [Phil] had time, he could play his fans a song live, and it would broadcast in their homes.” 

Four years later, the mission has launched, one “built by a community of instrument makers, creatives and curators committed to an environment of focused listening and communication of art … without the noise of the infrastructures we have become accustomed to both digitally and physically.” Toss in one entrepreneur, Alexis Ohanian, who came on board as the lead investor, and it’s a reality. 

Among the team are experienced New York connectors including Perry Brandston, a sound artist who worked at Fillmore East and CBGB and designed sound systems for spots including David Mancuso’s Loft and the Save the Robots club. Along with a smart German acoustician  who drew on the inherent resonance of classical instruments, the creators relied on earthen materials: wood, glass, cotton and steel. 

All of which sounds very impressive, perhaps even for the vinyl-only freaks. But the line-up is the deal-sealer, ranging from sublime analog electronic composers, forward-thinking electronic producers, soul-singing legends, piano-playing Harlem educators, underground experimental legends and gospel-shouting screamers: 

Specifically, the first season features: Arca, Madlib, Jessica Pratt, Bradford Cox, Beatrice Dillon, Sarah Davachi, Pauline Anna Strom, Mount Eerie, Drew McDowall, Norman Whiteside, Larry Gold, Sonia Sanchez, Andy Bey, Zsela, Desire Marea, Standing On The Corner, Marjorie Eliot, Beverly Glenn-Copeland, KeiyaA, Klein, Pastor T.L. Barrett with ensemble and choir, Ann Peebles and Don Bryant, DJ Python and LA Warman. 

Once you secure the speakers — which, based on an early listen to a set of live performances in Sept., sound exquisite — there is a subscription fee ($79 for the first) involved. But the cash is for all the right reasons: it pays for said astounding roster of musicians who, starting in December and moving into 2021, will play scheduled sets. As release notes stress: “Oda cares about creating a sustainable platform for artists, and membership pays for meaningful performance fees to participating artists and crew.”

Details, per Oda: “Oda is available for a promotional presale price of $299 and $79 for seasonal membership. After the first 1,000 units are sold the list price will be $399. Each run of the Oda system will be produced in a limited number of units.” 

If that’s more than you’re willing to commit to right now, consider all the cover charges, ticket fees, bar tabs, Ubers and diner food you’ve not been spending cash on since March. 

For details and schedule information on the platform’s first and second seasons, hit Oda: https://oda.co/

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