Bradford Cox is the archetypal late-noughties indie musician. He’s used the internet to release dozens of tracks – at times knowingly, at other times not. Logos – his second album under his Atlas Sound moniker – has already fallen victim to an unintended transmission into cyberspace: demos of its songs were leaked early last year, prompting an expletive-ridden rant from Cox and one of those briefly exciting but ultimately meaningless internet dramas.
But Cox doesn’t just deploy the ‘net as a means of getting his music to his fans. He also uses it to subvert the traditional image of the rock star as mysterious entity. He’s open about everything, not least when he and his regular band Deerhunter blogged about their defacatory habits via a ‘poop blog’.
Brilliantly (and rather less unpleasantly), when asked about his lyrical themes – a question that would normally elicit some imbecilic response like ‘Y’know, I just wanna let the songs speak for themselves’ – Cox responded with an impromptu track-by-track analysis of the meanings of each and every track on the first Atlas Sound album, last year’s Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Not Feel. His candid interviews reveal a man who’s intelligent, funny and, more importantly, in thrall to the potency of music as an art form.
The music found on Logos, the follow-up to Let The Blind…, doesn’t reflect its maker’s open demeanour. This isn’t some troubadour’s solo album crammed with transparently confessional lyrics. What we have instead is something much more interesting: an album built upon layer upon layer of mystery. Cox’s distinctive, sensual vocals will mean it’ll be instantly recognisable to fans of Deerhunter, but musically it’s like that band’s most ambient moments enshrouded in further layers of sonic nebulousness.
Logos succeeds in creating a deep sense of yearning without ever resorting to too much lyrical specificity; many of its 11 tracks feel more like extended sighs than actual songs. Moreover, on its two collaborative tracks – Walkabout, a duet with Panda Bear (aka Animal Collective‘s Noah Lennox) and Quick Canal, which features Stereolab‘s Laetitia Sadler – Cox seems happy to take a back seat to his recording partner. Indeed, on Quick Canal – basically a laptop-bound re-creation of Sterolab‘s motornik Krautrock – he’s barely audible at all.
Walkabout is one of a small handful of tracks on Logos that consolidate Cox’s skills as a pop writer, something he showcased to brilliant effect on Deerhunter‘s Microcastle album. It’s based around an organ loop from The Dovers‘ ’60s garage track What Am I Going To Do? and rivals Animal Collective‘s My Girls for infectiousness. Similarly catchy is Shelia, a more conventional track structured around a cyclically-strummed acoustic guitar and the kind of paradoxical statement so beloved of indie rock: “We’ll die together, alone.”
These tracks aren’t, however, representative of the album as a whole. Cox has claimed that “Almost everything you hear on the album is a first take… There are songs on here I don’t even remember recording”. That’s the kind of statement that makes lovers of well-crafted pop music shudder. And, indeed, a large portion of the album seems much more concerned about creating interesting sounds than memorable hooks.
But what sounds they are. Criminals is, perhaps, the prettiest thing here: its waltz-time tempo evokes a lovely, end-of-the-pier atmosphere. My Halo’s strange phasing effects evoke the aquatic atmosphere of The Beach Boys‘ Sunflower album. This sixties-meets-noughties aesthetic is carried over into the title track, which combines an insistent, Motown-informed drumbeat with warm blasts of synthesizers.
Logos doesn’t displace Microcastle as Cox’s masterwork to date. But it’s an intriguing, often beautiful addition to a rapidly expanding body of work that has seemingly boundless potential.