Atlas Sound


(Kranky; 2009)

By Clayton Purdom | 28 October 2009

Once again proving himself as pretty much the go-to-guy for confoundingly great, dreamy pysch-pop records, Bradford Cox’s new record under the Atlas Sound brand is confoundingly great, dreamy psych-pop, only this time with like 70% less Krautrock. Have you noticed how Flamin’ Hot used to be a Frito-Lay brand confined to Cheetos, but now there are Flamin’ Hot Munchies and Funyuns and Fritos and stuff, so in theory there’s this surplus of Flamin’ Hot variety but all that they’re really switching up bag to bag at this point is the texture since they all taste identically Flamin’ Hot? That is what Bradford Cox’s records are like at this point, not so much variations on a theme as the same theme sprayed like a bright red dust over different shapes and textures of corn things. Only instead of spiciness what he is spraying is confoundingly great, dreamy psych-pop, and instead of corn things what catches this spicy red dreamfog is songs. I’m a hungry guy.

And just as the Frito-Lay Corporation’s Flamin’ Hot success is a triumph of mass production—all Flamin’ Hot products taste exactly the same, feel the same, forever!—so too has Bradford Cox’s rapidfire album output resulted in an unconfined looseness that rewards being shoveled into the ear like so much bright red Frito into mouthhole. It sounds better the more it is shoveled, forming a dense cloud of crumbs and red dust. The tracks feel quickly and easily produced but fucking delicious. I can see how some people might call the big bright pop track “Shelia” underdeveloped, since it is essentially two alternating melodies repeated ad infinitum plus like a “breakdown.” However, these people would be wrong, because a) those melodies feel like the golden breath of God shot through your brain as electric coruscating SOUND, and b) within the greater context of the record, these single sonic elements, which are (yes) repeated ad infinitum with an occasional breakdown, are set up as sort of peaks between the valleys of more sedate songs. What makes this work is that when Cox pinpoints one of these single sonic elements for big display (he also does it with Laetitia Sadier’s voice on “Quick Canal” and a keyboard line on the title track) he is exactly correct: the track is thrilling, restless, the element shimmers ecstatically beneath our attention. The element is worthy of adoration. His taste is staggering.

In this ruthless pursuit of beauty through repetition he recalls, of course, Animal Collective, whose own Panda Bear guests here on the gigantic indiegasm “Walkabout” which is, of course, just every bit as good as it could be (who are we kidding). The track is a brainworm, just narcotically pretty shit, sounding both like but different than either artist’s individual output. You sort of want to call music God and ask for a supergroup, but then, Cox is sort of his own supergroup at this point, geysering music that dissolves scenes and boundaries with the idle completeness of a shuffle function, all unified beneath his strange, sardonic person and the confoundingly great, dreamy psych-pop he produces. One could go on, but one has other music to listen to, as this record reminds one one should, and one also needs to clean the red dust off his keyboard.