Friday, November 27, 2009

Logos - Atlas Sound


Atlas Sound
Kranky Records.

SCQ Rating: 76%

In a recent Pitchfork interview, Bradford Cox disclosed some of his record-making habits; one in particular being that he always records the first and last track before settling into the disc’s in-between material. I found this relation baffling, seeing as how Logos’ icebreaker and clean-up hitter differ so greatly. Structurally, mood and quality-wise, ‘The Light That Failed’ and ‘Logos’ couldn’t be more bipolar; the opener is a shambling warm-up, pretty and self-indulgent, while the closer trolleys through warbling keys and golden-age percussion, like Johnny Cash drunk through a vocoder. How these compositions were recorded back-to-back, I’m unsure - unless Cox was defining his contrast limits - but it illustrates nonetheless the eclectic nature of Logos, a sophomore that triumphs and treads thin with its varied approach.

Revisiting the hazy guitar-work of Cox’s best virtual 7”’s and online EP’s, ‘An Orchid’ properly sets the wheels in the rails with an aching lullaby sung with angelic timbre. When the riffs get tighter (albeit in that loose, Velvet Underground manner) in ‘Sheila’ or fall into rustic disarray on ‘Attic Lights’, Atlas Sound proves unquestionably Cox’s most devastating alias, resolved to personal clairvoyance through art-damaged experimenting. And while nothing here sounds as though it belongs outside the Bradford Cox canon (besides, perhaps, the summertime anthem ‘Walkabout’ with Panda Bear), Logos bears a distinctly organic sound that Let the Blind Heal Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel warded off to B-side status. There remain ample injections of bedroom-pop atmospherics on ‘Washington School’ and ‘Quick Canal’ (which despite boasting Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier on vocals, still sounds like an ambitious remix of ‘Quarantined’), but Cox’s interest in understated acoustics and refined electronics (the must-hear ‘Kid Klimax’) renders Logos the more mature, less abrasive record.

Logos’ few lackluster moments aren’t as apparent as those that diluted Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel; instead tracks like ‘My Halo’ and ‘The Light That Failed’ are merely shrug-worthy gaps between noteworthy songs. As a whole, this even-keel makes the record easier to digest in one sitting than its predecessor, even if Atlas Sound’s debut owns the better highlights. Cox has never been so at odds with Atlas Sound’s niche, allowing it to breach its electronic birthright and wander rock and roll’s playground (possibly at the expense of now-on-hiatus Deerhunter). While not as flagrant and personal as his much-loved prior work, Logos is a better indication of both Cox’s matured outlook and his promising future as a songwriter – with or without the band.

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