Sunday, April 4, 2010

Album Review: Atlas Sound - Logos

Atlas Sound
4AD / Kranky, 2009
Paul’s Rating: 8.5/10

I’ve listened to this album many times over during the past several weeks, yet it’s difficult to know where to begin reviewing it. I think I’ve figured out why: Writing about any Bradford Cox project almost invariably turns into a biography on Cox himself. Atlas Sound – arguably even more so than Cox’s more famous band, Deerhunter – Is the Bradford Cox project. At least, this is the one for which Cox is sole proprietor. As Cox’ Wikipedia bio indicates, it has been since he was a child. And this time, he’s brought some friends along, most notably Animal Collective’s Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox and Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier.

From the very start, if not for the distinct tremor of Cox’s voice, this would not easily be mistaken for a Deerhunter album. Opening track “The Light That Failed” slowly churns around a delicate acoustic guitar riff, incorporating high-pitched bells and thundering bass with not a lot in between. In doing so, it trades Deerhunter’s shoegazey wall-of-sound density for an expansiveness traditional rock instrumentation could not easily create.

The guest appearances do stick out. The two opening tracks almost go out of their way to avoid hooks. They manage – barely – to dovetail into “Walkabout,” in which Lennox makes his appearance. Catchy and melodic, it sounds like a Panda Bear song, not an Atlas Sound song. It makes the album difficult to parse, because it’s a great song.

It’s at this point one gets the idea that if Cox the auteur does have some grand vision, it’s much more apparent through Deerhunter, while Atlas Sound might represent a separate avenue for experimentation. Most of Logos does bear some of Deerhunter’s trademarks. Atmosphere, ambience, all woven through with threads of driving rhythms and clanging guitars – are present throughout, although accomplished with different instruments and different methods. To fault the Logos for the one thing it lacks: cohesiveness, would seem unfair. Part of its strength is its diversity. It doesn’t seem Cox was trying to create a magnum opus, and that’s okay.

There is something to be said for the overall quality of Cox’s various projects, which is very high, prolific as he is. On top of that, Atlas Sound speaks to his shrewdness for marketing his music. By giving it a separate name, he allows Deerhunter its own identity. It’s fortunate that he hasn’t done so by keeping the rest to himself.

No comments:

Post a Comment