Monday, March 3, 2008

**Atlas Sound Concert Review**

Atlas Sound
Horseshoe Tavern
Toronto, ON
February 28th, 2008.

Bradford Cox pulled across the Canadian border last Thursday with his Atlas Sound band in tow to support his solo debut Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel. When I first heard teases for the record, I was excited for Cox’s laptop compositions mixed with some organic instrumentation, but once word spread about his tour band (featuring Adam Forkner of White Rainbow and Honey Owens of Valet), I knew I couldn’t miss this show.

Emily and I arrived halfway through Valet’s set and found her droning rock and whispered vocals appropriate for the surprisingly laid-back crowd. First off, the Horseshoe was still half empty; something we didn’t expect after arriving an hour and a half after doors opened. Secondly, much of the crowd who had braved the weather to come out were sitting on the floor, a good few yards from the stage. Even Forkner, immediately recognizable with long dark hair and closed eyes, was lying flat on the floor. We settled into the end of Valet’s set, crossed-legged next to Forkner, and warmed up to her washes of sound perforated by Brian Foote on electronics and Bradford himself on the drum-kit.

Next up was White Rainbow, who explored the stage by striking individual drums then looping it, creating a live-off-the-floor rhythm from nothing. For those audience members unaware of his music, White Rainbow asked for no fanfare, barely recognizing his own presence and playing none of his recorded material (he would later tell me that he prefers creating songs on the spot over performing his catalogue). Hunched down onstage with a guitar and electronic equipment, White Rainbow’s introduction was impressively bombastic, humble, and unfortunately, too brief.

Honey Owens and Forkner returned within ten minutes alongside Bradford Cox and the rest of the Atlas Sound band (Brian Foote and drummer Stephanie Macksey), who together launched into a spacey set of loose, dreamy psychedelics. Although fans of Cox are familiar with his unpredictable showmanship, the man behind Atlas Sound was jovial and professional, delivering many of Let the Blind…’s best tracks without wearing any dresses (which would’ve also been pretty memorable). By now the crowd had filled in and most everyone was standing (if not dancing) at the foot of the stage. The band effort did justice to Cox’s laptop recordings, piling noise onto ‘Recent Bedroom’ and ‘Cold As Ice’ while retaining the ambient leanings of those album stand-outs. In a few instances, the band renovated electronic numbers into shoegazey rock songs, as heard in the aggressive ‘Scraping Past’ and show-stopper ‘Winter Vacation’, which brought the set to a ferocious close and hypnotized everyone with its propulsive beat.

Cox became more talkative throughout the set, discussing the severe cold of Canadian winter and countering it later with the shock that the venue was hot enough to make him sweat (no small feat, considering he admittedly doesn’t possess any body fat), and by the time the band reconvened for an encore, Cox was ready to just hang out. Testing the crowd, he played out a Dirty Projectors riff he couldn’t finish and engaged in conversation about a variety of songs he couldn’t be bothered playing. This was a great opportunity to hear a few of his countless (and awesome) unreleased tunes, which have been accumulating on his busy blog over the past year. Cox encouraged us to shout out requests, and I was lucky enough to hear two of mine: ‘Activation’ (well, half of it), from the Orange Olms Glow EP, and ‘Requiem to All the Lonely Teenagers with Passed-Out Moms’. The latter was another show highlight, that climaxed in a duel guitar stand-off between Forkner and Cox that was mind-blowingly well-executed considering they weren’t expecting to play it.

While a few critics would label such an encore unprofessional, it summed up a great show where it was evident that both band and audience were enjoying themselves. Cox has made clear through numerous interviews, blog posts, and albums that he has nothing to hide, and by blurring the line between stage and crowd, he succeeded in sharing his musical genius, challenging and morose as it is, to a crowd that genuinely needed to feel it.

(Gig Photography by the one and only Em Pascoe)

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