Atlas Sound - "Logos"
It starts, as always, with Bradford Cox sounding lost, wandering through leaky sink distortion and disembodied voices towards an acoustic guitar lullaby on "The Light That Failed." Then the fog clears, and we hear ... pop music?
Side projects are supposed to be the weird, extraneous third nipple on an artist's main body of work. Cox doesn't need that kind of outlet -- it would be impossible for him, or damn near anyone else, to out-weird or out-experiment Deerhunter's restlessly thrilling records, and Atlas Sound doesn't try. Despite the frequent presence of Cox's most reliable stock character, Death, lurking outside attic windows and turning orchids to rot, "Logos" isn't as formidable as last year's "Microcastle/Weird Era Cont." I'm also supposed to say it's not as "cohesive" too, as if it's a bad thing that Cox can be strumming bouncy '60s pop on the morose ballad "Shelia," and then bobbing through sterile lonely, synthy space on "Kid Klimax" two tracks later. No, Cox hasn't constructed another dense cryptogram for us to decode, nor has he solved any of his own puzzles: "Shine a light" he chimes on "Washington School," and one line later his eyes are burning -- "too much of a good thing." Stereolab's Laetitia Sadier coos "Quick Canal," an epic beam of technopop that begins yearning for sainthood and ends with the singer looking for answers in the dirt. The next track is called "My Halo" -- see, it's not like Cox cobbled this thing together at random -- and of course it turns out sainthood is just another form of earthly agony. That's Cox for you: you get what you want and it nearly kills you; fears come true and you're still terrified; you win the girl and all you can feel is relief that you won't die alone.
Well then. Who needs some cheering up? Then drop your needle on "Walkabout," Cox's collaboration with Noah "Panda Bear" Lennox, a burst of carpe diem sunshine starring Animal Collective's trademark twinkle and featuring none of their trademark droning pointlessness. I may have given the impression that Cox's music is best heard with your head inside an oven. It's not -- Cox isn't some goth romantic, he's afraid of dying before he figures out what the hell is really going on in this baffling life. Look at the cover: that's Cox, his chest caved in where he feels something missing. Deerhunter and Atlas Sound are Cox yearning for that elusive something, searching for the one scribbling all these garbled messages, encrypting the secrets of the universe in earthly signs and visions. At the end of this album, Cox gets a glimpse of this "king of the night" and "king of life" who "fights away all decay." Like the Greek philosophers before him, Cox calls this divinity steering the cosmos Logos. Early Christians called Logos "the Word," incarnated in Christ, whose pain and humiliation Cox channeled explicitly not once, but twice on "Microcastle/Weird Era Cont." I wouldn't go so far as to say that Cox finally sees the light on "Logos," but his music has never sounded so near to salvation.