Since the release of the first album under his Atlas Sound moniker—Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Not Feel—Bradford Cox has made a slew of AS songs available on the Deerhunter Blog. (And, of course, also managed to leak an unfinished version of Logos and then unreleased Deerhunter songs.) Among the purposefully posted were plenty of original songs, instrumentals, and spaced-out, reverb-drenched excursions, but also some pretty straightforward covers of tunes by The Velvet Underground (“I’ll Be Your Mirror”), Neil Young (“Only Love Can Break Your Heart”) and, most recently, Fleetwood Mac (“Walk a Thin Line”). Cox has always seemed to be someone that worked pretty transparently (and often fantastically) through his influences, but on hearing his latest full-length, Logos, songs like those listed above, simple but affecting, seemed to have played a larger role in shaping the sound and style. Experiments with texture and ambient atmospheres continue, but there is less meandering through sound worlds and more focus on concise though still quirky songcraft.
According to Cox, this time around he tried to veer away from introspective screeds on alienation and inhabit other perspectives. Honestly, it is not that noticeable, as a lot of the Atlas Sound songs tend to swallow up their lyrical content into swirling and winding atmospheric ways. And on the tender but still rather macabre “Shelia,” the songs joy is wrapped around a hopeful enjoinder that he and his beloved “die alone together.” Sounds like business as usual except the desire has gotten wrapped around the doom, the two interchangeable and meshed in a jaunty, joyful rendezvous of a song.
Two guests join in on making the atlas sound on Logos, and the tracks that Noah Lennox and Stereolab chanteuse, Laetitia Sadier, feature on are both supremely excellent. “Walkabout,” which has been doing the blog rounds for quite a while now, is built around a sample from The Dovers sunshine and love classic “What Am I Going to Do?”, and is made up of lyrics that consider and evoke childhood and its accompanying dreams. Appropriately (both because he played a part in the songs inception while Animal Collective was on tour with Cox and because the tracks sampling, weirdly euphoric rippling recall Person Pitch), Lennox contributes some harmony howls from the songs depths throughout. The result is a time crossing nugget of soulful, hazy pop, good for a quiet stare out the window or concocting a buoyant impromptu dance routine.
“Quick Canal,” on the other hand, is propelled forward for eight and a half minutes on a skipping, metronomic Kraut pulse while Sadier coos wistfully about wisdom. It has a cavernous sound to it, a depth at first sparsely populated but then filled by crackling and feedback to suitably mesmeric effect. And while the three songs mentioned thus far may be those that stick out most, Logos is engaging throughout, from the sparse repetitions of opener, “The Light That Failed,” to the mildly frenetic exit of the title track. Side two (from “Quick Canal” on) is a particularly entrancing journey, sliding down from the peak of QC into the hypnotic trio of “My Halo,” “Kid Klimax” and “Washington School,” minimalist electronics and acoustic plucks and strums weaved together with Cox’s voice into an inviting nest of warmth.
Logos may be the most cogent album that either Atlas Sound or Deerhunter has turned out to this point. It flows from beginning to end, alluring with a calmly mutating surface and a palpable pulse of life and thought and memory. What it lacks in fireworks it more than makes up by developing a tone and atmosphere to abide and dream in.