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The Definitive “CODA Sound ‘Palette 001′” Album Review

A universe of memories in one hour.

It’s always easy to spot a labor of love. People make music for multitudinous reasons, but the ones who are putting their souls into it in the name of art—you can spot them from a mile away. When Justin approached DMNW about reviewing CODA Palette 001, the debut artist compilation from The CODA Sound, the love inside was evident quickly. How? The review literally came down to the wire.

Throughout the week prior Justin and I spoke about arranging a review of Palette 001. His excitement about the project was clear. “It’s personally one of my most (if not THE MOST) anticipated moments in my 23 years on the planet.” Then came the production delays. Every album ever made pushes production time to the limit, but when you’re providing pressers to reviewers 48 hours before the launch…you and your team have been obsessing sleeplessly about the CODA sound.

CODA definitely has a “sound”: chunky, modulated, choppy, dissonant. You won’t find sing-along melodies on this album. If anything, there’s no shortage of nonsense, resampled, bitcrushed vocals, planting a flag very clearly in the “vox as a synth” camp. As a single reviewer, I might categorize it as overused, but the abundance does work in establishing the group’s production language. If you’ve ever imagined what falling into a black hole is like, plummeting down into a dark, swirling vortex of memories and lost loves totally removed from time, this is the album for you.

If you’ve ever imagined what falling into a black hole is like, plummeting down into a dark, swirling vortex of memories and lost loves totally removed from time, this is the album for you.

Overall, the production quality is very impressive. The CODA artists have managed to find a consistent mixing style, and combined with Jay Battle mastering Palette 001 is bottom-heavy but full, really taking advantage of the low-midrange (and, at times, making a statement by removing it entirely). If given one word, you’d probably call it “warm.”

The synth sounds are predominantly vintage, clearly inspired by the famous Juno and Arp units you might now start finding on thrift store shelves. Even modern production techniques on the album buck the smiley-face curve for a more even (read: vintage) frequency balance. Given that CODA was established and curated by 23-year old Justin Hartinger, this is curious and intriguing.

Palette seems designed for headphone listeners, and has lots of ear candy waiting for them. It is an album clearly intended for night drives, late-night corner listening, or as the soundtrack for your 3am afterglow. I question how some of these tracks would fit into a modern club mix, but it’s wildly successful shoegaze and really clubbing is not what this album is about anyway. It’s meant to establish a cadence, and from that perspective it does so deftly.

Side note: The decision to include Al Green’s “I’m So Tired of Being Alone” as a sample was inspired, and from that moment I knew for sure what Palette was really all about.

Halfway through the first listen my Jaybird X2 batteries took a dive. This gave me a while to remove them and digest what I’d heard so far. The primary thing I noticed is that the ear fatigue commonly associated with listening to modern dance music (EDM) was non-existent. I haven’t explored the waveforms in detail, but it’s nice to hear artists and mastering engineers eschewing the need for MAXIMUM VOLUME. Saw blade compression doesn’t just destroy dynamics, it straight up sounds bad and damages your ears. The noise floor is nowhere to be heard on Palette 001, only sweet, sweet sound.

Really, great signal to noise ratio is a perfect metaphor for Palette 001. Every track is clean, smooth, and filled with interesting material. As a brand introduction, it succeeds fully. The real challenge for The CODA Sound roster of artists will be how to innovate long-term while staying true to their core sound. There is a lot to be proud of on this compilation, and it will be exciting to see where they go from here. Hopefully somewhere new. The universe is full of mysteries out there in the cold.

‘Palette 001’ Standout Tracks

Track 1: Lodent – Descuidado
Track 2: Dream Journal – Get On
Track 8: Simplyistic – Rollerblades
Track 13: Justin Hartinger – Acting Up
Track 17: CANDLIGHT – Love Me

Final Notes

CODA Palette 001 is a thoroughly-engaging introduction to the CODA brand. It’s rich, warm, and full of things to love. If they can maintain their production value, increase their momentum, and expand their universe of sounds, they’re ready to go national with a major hit—if that’s the kind of thing they’d be into. Maybe they’ll want to keep their secrets close forever, bathed in glowey wash of sound, and that’s OK too.

1: Lodent – Descuidado [CODA]
2: Dream Journal – Get On [CODA]
3: Remzi – Let [CODA]
4: Troy – Stay w Me [CODA]
5: Ezr0 Marei – Nohuei [CODA]
6: Ira Snow – House of Ghosts [CODA]
7: Jamie Blake – Rollin This [CODA]
8: Simplystic – Rollerblades [CODA]
9: brothel. – Julie [CODA]
10: Pore Sport – O Bby [CODA]
11: DJ Puppy Breath – Flutter [CODA]
12: Glass Islands – Rave Gang [CODA]
13: Justin Hartinger – Acting Up [CODA]
14: GZ – Better Than This [CODA]
15: Backwhen – Charms [CODA]
16: IX – Ritual [CODA]
17: CANDLIGHT – Love Me [CODA]
18: Pacific Patterns – Plastic Splash [CODA]