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Atlas Sound

“Logos” (Kranky) -- 4.5 Stars

Take Atlas Sound’s first album, “Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel,” overdose it on Adderall, add an actual beat, and put it over an open flame, and you get “Legos,” the newest psychedelic pop-rock album from Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox under his solo project moniker. Fusing acoustic guitar chords, haze-like ambient synth, trippy electronic beats, and a yin-yang of light and dark tones, Atlas Sound succeeds in escaping the ill effects of the dreaded sophomore slump, creating a lively, relaxing, musically adept and diverse second solo project. With an ideal balance of fast and slow, poppy and downer, “Logos” is a commendable addition to Cox’s already impressive body of work.

Atlas Sound has been Cox’s baby since its birth back in 1994 when, in sixth grade, he bought his own cassette karaoke recording machine and began making music. Using combinations of voice, guitars, electronic bass, and drums, Atlas Sound created a unique sound—a cross between the blurry trip-inducing buzz of the Flaming Lips and mind-bending Radiohead-esque vocals and electro-acoustics. For Cox, Atlas Sound has become his outlet for more personal electronic explorations.

Atlas Sound’s first album was distinguished by an overall unhappiness throughout its indiscernible words, despressing lyrics, and occasional major chords. Such quiet, low, minor, and slightly creepy tones can be found on several of the tracks on “Logos”—such as “The Light That Failed,” “An Orchid,” and “Kid Klimax”—featuring sparse notes above middle C, screeching vocals, and slow tempo. “The Light That Failed” possesses progressively louder synthesizer screeches, distorted whispers, and a lack of any true melody, chorus, or lyrics; a repetitive guitar riff, rooted in minor chords, plays over a background sound that calls to mind water dripping from a faucet. Though this subtracts from the track’s overall musicality, these dark motifs balance the upbeat songs which come later, making the album more effective overall.

“Walkabout” is one such song, a collaboration with musician Noah Lennox aka Animal Collective’s Panda Bear. From start to finish, “Walkabout” is four minutes of musical genius. Led by drums, carried by a buoyant rhythm, backed up with a pronounced electronic riff, and topped off with a serenade of jolly vocals, it’s a track to be reckoned with. “What did you want to see? What did you want to be when you grew up?” Lennox asks repeatedly during the song’s chorus. The somewhat childish and innocent tone of these lyrics does not hinder the song’s maturity—in fact, the similarly happy lyrics throughout the rest of the song simply keep it extremely fun with repeated listens.

This complete 180 from the dark tones of some of the other tracks is thankfully continued througout the rest of the album. “Sheila” continues this racy flow with actually intelligible lyrics, unlike the mumbles that filled most of Atlas Sound’s first album. Oddly enough, though, these lyrics drift back into the dark and mysterious realm even as the sound remains accessbily poppy; “Sheila, we will die alone together,” Cox sings in a deceptively upbeat voice.

While in the final two tracks, “Washington School” and “Logos,” vocals are either absent or barely audible, the once-surprisingly quick tempo does not die down. Both songs exhibit new and different combinations of mixed sounds and beats—as do each of the other tracks—never becoming a copy or continuation of a previous one.

Cox successfully redeems himself for his semi-failure of a first album, lifting the listeners’ spirits to counterbalance the depression provided by a few of the tracks. With a balanced, cyclical array of different beats, tones, and melodies, “Logos” is a cohesive, clear, and fun album to listen to from beginning to end.

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