Neumos, Seattle, WA , 2/28/12 – Bradford Cox as the lead singer of the awesome Deerhunter (who I admittedly only discovered recently with the release of the amazing Halcyon Digest), but has been producing music under Atlas Sound since he was a little kid. Atlas Sound refers to the brand name of a tape recorder he would use to create “stream of consciousness” music. Bradford says he has over 500 tapes in storage and that some of the music from those explorations have become Deerhunter songs over the years.
What I guess is a very small percentage of the recordings have become Atlas Sound 3 full LPs over the years. These are the albums where Bradford let’s all his strange and wonderful creative genius pour out unencumbered. I’ve listened to the albums, but there are other EPs and things scattered around too – one of which explores a dub sound. He’s clearly not afraid to try anything. I first heard the latest – Parallax – and it’s a shoegazer psychedelic guitar rock masterpiece that comes together in tight little packages of awesomeness on songs like Mona Lisa and My Angel is Broken.
In catching up on Atlas Sound’s earlier records I heard songs reminiscent of Lou Reed or Thom Yorke. I also hear some clear parallel’s between his solo project and Deerhunter, that ethereal guitar rock that explores the fringes of our American truly alternative alt-rock sound. I was expecting more of an exploratory show than if it was a Deerhunter show, but not as exploratory as it turned out to be. The show was sold out, which was comforting for some reason. I know Seattleites overall are serious music fans and the fact that this show sold out proved it for me. After the 2nd opener – The Carnivours – finished, I noticed that they had left their drum kit on the stage for Atlas Sound to use, which I thought was kinda punk rock.
But then, Bradford comes out all by himself!? Is he taking in some of the limelight before the rest of the band joins him? No. I should have known. Atlas Sound is not just some fun he has doing wild recordings, it’s the way he approaches the entire project. He crafted layers upon layers of sound primarily with an acoustic guitar and a multi-track recorder he controlled with foot pedals. Just him and his machine, just like back in the day in the beginnings of Atlas Sound. I should have known that someone with that kind of talent isn’t doing the one-man-band thing as a gimic, it’s just what Atlas Sound is.
It was all very disorienting but also very awesome. The first few songs were taken in with amazement at what he was pulling of musically, creating a lush wall of sound all by himself. He was working so damn hard up there, but making it look easy. He would lay an acoustic track, a baseline and a tweaked melody down with his acoustic guitar, banging on the wood or the strings to get a jarring sound. He’d then calmly put down the guitar and go pick up a bass guitar for an added extra layer. With all of that working, he’d make his way back to the guitar to play with that a bit. It was amazing to watch.
At times the explorations would get into some far out territory and would lull us into a bit of dreamy state that was easy to slip into for this old guy on a rainy Tuesday night. He’d always snap us back with a jarring ending or a journey into some amazing guitar work. If Atlas Sound on an album is an exploration in psychedelic rock, Atlas Sound live is performance art. I would recommend anyone who is a fan of music, no matter what kind, should see what Brandon does with his child-like fascination with music.