Nov 07, 2011 Issue #38 - 10th Anniversary Issue
By now we know what to expect from Bradford Cox: a rejection of convention, an embrace of bedroom recording techniques, and a liberal dollop of weird. Eschewing the traditional noise-rock structures of his main band Deerhunter (insomuch as anything Deerhunter does can be called traditional), Cox returns for either his third or seventh official release under the solo-project moniker—all depending on how much weight you give last year’s free Bedroom Databank series.
While last year’s Deerhunter album Halcyon Digest benefited from a sonic boost by mixer Ben Allen, Atlas Sound seems to be heading in the other direction, passing like a ship in the night towards all things lo-fi—a surprisingly well-suited production technique. The pillars of pop found in 2009’s Logos have been replaced with cobwebs of sound that wrap around the listener—even if Cox often gets lost in the maze of his handiwork.
Back is the repetition of mesmerizing thematic lines that slowly morph into grander statements—one of Atlas Sound’s few predictable mainstays. “Te Amo” employs a bouncy synth, slowly incorporating equally bubbly percussion. “We will go to sleep and we’ll have such strange dreams,” Cox sings above the hypnotic swirl. “Terra Incognita” uses a similar repetition, swapping synths for guitar and perk for introspection in a lackadaisical climb, complete with a bewitching choir. It seems like vocals may be the secret weapon, as despite its intricate loops, ambient track “Flagstaff” outright bores—and signals a rare moment when the listener is left to second-guess Cox’s frenetic pace of releasing music.
As powerful as his sound experiments can be, Cox catches fire when subverting established genres. “My Angel is Broken” is like listening to a shattered-mirror version of doo-wop—think The Penguins’ “Earth Angel” as reimagined for the broken-hearted. On the flipside, “Praying Man” is perhaps the closest thing to a spiritual Cox will ever write. It’s a cracked track that rests comfortably on a razor’s edge between genius and mania, topped with vocals that stop just short of glossolalia. While too restrained overall to match the tie-dyed brilliance of Logos, Parallax’s subtle charms demonstrate that Cox’s musical id is still alive and kicking.
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 9/10