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Odd Nosdam - No More Wig For Ohio

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Artist: Odd Nosdam

Album: No More Wig For Ohio

Label: Anticon

Review date: May. 15, 2003

RZA Caliber

The best producers are the ones that have a vision of the final product. Premiere, Shadow, Dre, Automator, RZA – all of these guys have admitted to such practices, and it's hard not to think that such a simple method is responsible for so many sonic achievements. Of course it takes talent and dedication for this awareness to take shape, but foresight seems at the root of any great producer.

With that said, Cincinnati born David Madson (a.k.a. Odd Nosdam) is on the brink of such realization. Spending his younger years as an elementary school trumpet player, which eventually spiraled into a penchant for drawing, skateboarding and breakdancing music, it was a colorful tape entitled 3 Feet High and Rising that officially triggered his hip hop obsession. The mid ’90s saw him fiddling with Nirvana riffs and Black Moon beats on a Sega Genesis, but it was his time at the Art Academy of Cincinnati where his creative visions would coalesce. Since then, he's been a part of some of hip hop's most thoughtful releases: the Greenthink tapes with fellow Ohioans Dose One and Why? as well as the critically acclaimed cLOUDDEAD and Reaching Quiet albums, and amazingly he has found time to release multiple solo projects between the cracks.

His latest offering, No More Wig For Ohio, is undoubtedly the most accurate portrayal of Nosdam's sound and state. Designed as a two-part premise, tracks 1-11 play like a ’50s dance hall with an extra chromosome. Infomercials, vocal artillery, awkward samples, and sonic ornaments are thrown together into a sonic stew, which somehow manages and maintains cohesiveness. This is the world which surrounds Nosdam, a musique-concrete of sorts, and presented with the proper amount of flare and idiosyncrasy.

The second half reveals a Nosdam at his most bare and unrestricted form; a flurry of beats revisit the many sounds of previous efforts, and overall sounds more accomplished than its predecessor. There are tracks that borrow from the airy soundscapes of cLOUDDEAD, some breathe surreal and imaginative undertones, while others create ambient spaces completely void of any rhythmic merit. Backward snares, vinyl static and synthetic threads all make for a busy listening experience. Most of it is accomplished at under 80 bpm, a snail's pace by hip hop standards; the few that hover above this range sound like Swizz Beats incarnations, but it is all shaped with great precision and clear direction.

Like his inspiration the RZA, Nosdam has found a way to create a niche for himself that is so deep and forbidden that only he, the originator, has managed to become a master, and similarly that sound is not all that refined. He embarks on countless digs, scavenging through thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales for the always elusive sample, then grinds it into almost unrecognizable form and lays a heavy dose of heart regulating drums with his trusty MPC. But like the RZA, his methods can become quite linear, and inevitably, limitations do surface. Part of what made Return to the 36 Chambers such a crowning achievement was the lyrical ferocity the Clan brought to RZA's dark and murky production – imagine it as an instrumental album, and half of that magic is gone. Similarly, as amazing as cLOUDDEAD and In the Shadow of the Living Room were, the thought of either release in purely instrumental form seems like a daunting listen. Perhaps these are his exact intentions as a producer, but by the end of No Wig, it’s hard not to feel like it suffers from the level of simplicity inherent in much of Nosdam's production. He attempts to jump this hurdle by keeping most of the tracks under three minutes, but that only tends to lend itself to a rushed and less sincere experience. At times, No Wig for Ohio can be a rather arduous journey, but it’s the kind where all of the redeeming qualities are felt upon completion. Odd Nosdam, with an incredible work ethic and sharp ear, has the potential to become a top tier producer – all he needs now is the ability to construct works that can progress and evolve as purely instrumental pieces.

Easier said than done.

By Brian Ho

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