Monday, February 25, 2008

Bradford Cox Refuses to Leave Us Alone. Maybe a Thank You is in Order?

There are many great musicians who just can't put their instruments down for very long. For whatever reason, one band or solo project isn't enough for them and the need to collaborate with others is an itch that has to be scratched. Not everything they produce yields critical praise or commercial success, and many times they run the risk of alienating their core fans with such 'diversions', yet we usually fail to give them credit for having the ambition to keep creating.

Thankfully, Bradford Cox deserves credit not just for the quantity of his creative output, but also for its high quality. In 2007 his band Deerhunter was the subject of seemingly endless praise, hype and debate as they unleashed two exceptional releases to keep fans busy. Readers of this blog (all 5 of you) know I've made no secret about my love for Deerhunter, so it should come as no surprise that my introduction to Cox's other band, Atlas Sound, has me feeling the love all over again.

It would be easy to attribute Atlas Sound's appeal to their similarities to Deerhunter, which is an argument that has some merit, but that ignores all the ways in which the two are different. Yes, the reliance on ambient noise is something that Deerhunter fans should recognize, but the way that noise is packaged diverges from the song structure found on Cryptogams/Fluorescent Grey.  On those releases (especially Cryptograms) noise is used as a bridge from one song to the next; as almost a build up to another, more detailed, idea. While on their debut Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, Atlas Sound uses precision production and mixing to blend many sounds into droned atmospheric melodies. The sound is less Shoegaze and more of a blend of Krautrock (Harmonia and Cluster spring to mind), Brian Eno and a touch of IDM (Druqks era Aphex Twin can be heard in there at times). Cox's lethargic vocal delivery fits perfectly within this framework as it often times settles within the melody itself (see "Winter Vacation").

That dreamscape type of sound is on display for 14 spectacular songs and I haven't been able to put down my headphones for nearly a week. Atlas Sound, like Deerhunter, managed to release a record that will surely have blogs across the Internet talking about them (and Bradford Cox) for more time to come. While certain people might be sick of Cox by now, the man is three-for-three in releasing excellent albums, so get used to his face for at least another year.

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