Inside the poster-plastered walls of Rockin Rudy’s, Jimi Nasset sings a few bars of Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky,” while bandmates Jack McLarnan and Jeff Forrest wisecrack on an incoming shipment of beef jerky. With three out of the five early twentysomething members of Oddability listening to music all day long while working at Rockin Rudy’s, perhaps it’s no wonder that this Missoula jazz-flavored hip-hop quintet draws on a vast resource of influences. One album they can’t throw into the changer at work, however, is their own eponymous disc, released in August.
Oddability bassist McLarnan explains, “You can only play customer-friendly music inside Rockin Rudy’s…I know for sure that there are lots of people who would not want to buy cards while listening to our album. But it is a very nice place to shop and work, with the widest selection of cards in town,” McLarnan adds with a chuckle, perhaps imagining his boss reading this article.
To be sure, Oddability is not anniversary-card-buying music. Nor is it dance music. Instead, Oddability specializes in what they call “sci-fi jazz hip-hop.” The band utilizes the dissonance of jazz chords and rhythms, with sax, guitar, drums and bass running amok to create an almost schizophrenic sound, but with just enough melody to let the listener in on the secret. On top of all this, Jimi Nasset, Oddability’s master of the turntables, sprinkles a layer or two of distorted effects, voice dubs and an occasional rap (which McLarnan describes as “stream of consciousness psychedelic emo rap”). Nasset says that Oddability’s lack of danceable grooves is no accident.
“I would rather have everybody really watching and listening and actually paying attention to the time signatures or the way that [guitarist] Jeff and [saxophonist Brian] Brock are playing against each other in syncopation and all the little things there that make it what it is,” Nasset says.
These subtle dynamics may find their most sympathetic audiences not in crowded dance halls full of buzzed groove-seekers—an audience that was attracted to Moksha, an earlier and more jammed-out incarnation of Oddability—but with the listener who just wants to wrap a pair of headphones around his or her ears and stare at a blank spot on the wall for an hour or so.
The transition from the funked-out jams of Moksha to the more concise, jazz-based songs of Oddability came about when Moksha’s keyboardist moved away from Missoula. The rest of the band grew bored with the style of music they were playing, and at about that time, Oddability’s members got heavily into the music of hip-hop jazz riffers such as Critters Buggin’, Tortoise and Square Pusher. The sound that resulted was what Nasset refers to as “controlled noise chaos.” Drummer Adam Kocsondy explains that, even in the Moksha days, the band was never quite comfortable with the jam band label.
“The jam part of it was always more of the jazz approach from Bitch’s Brew [era] Miles Davis-sounding stuff. None of it was ever from the jam-band scene. We definitely don’t want to be associated with that. It’s cool and it’s popular too, but it’s not our approach, and we don’t want to be labeled in that realm, and it’s unfortunate sometimes that when you’re trying to do stuff from ’70s-era jazz artists, you get labeled so easily as a jam band.”
After a pause, Kocscondy adds, “But I mean, if they called us up and wanted us to play Bonnaroo…”
“If Miles Davis was doing today what he was doing in the early ’70s, he would be considered a jam band, too,” Forrest chimes in. “That whole idea has become so inclusive that it’s almost inescapable.”
Crowd reactions to the Oddability sound have ranged from worshipful to agitated.
“There was this guy in Eugene who was going off about how he couldn’t believe we were the best show he’d seen since Frank Zappa,” McLarnan says.
Nasset follows this up with a quip: “But then again, he had just gotten out of prison a week before that.”
“There’s always a couple people that, like, it hurts their head, you know?” Nasset says.
But Forrest says that overall, the reaction has been positive.
“There is a level of excitement when people see five young kids doing something like this. It’s something you’re not going to hear too often, especially from younger musicians out of Montana.”
Most of the songs on Oddability’s debut are lengthy, offering a hint of the elongated jams of Moksha. But Kocscondy says that the band is moving away from these extended songs to the more concise, with a focus on what Kocscondy describes as “strange structures” in songwriting.
Clearly, the members of Oddability live, eat and breathe music. Aside from the fact that Nasset, McLarnan and Forrest work at Rockin Rudy’s, all the members of Oddability have side projects up and running. Nasset (who goes by the rap handle “Nasty”) is working on a solo rap album. McLarnan, Kocscondy and Forrest are working on a be-bop project. Also, sax player Brian Brock plays guitar with local acts Crack Sabbath (a Black Sabbath tribute band) and punk ensemble Joey Butta and the Fuctones. With such myriad interests, trying to predict what dimensions the Oddability sound may explore next would be as useless as buying a potty-training video for a duck.