Bradford Cox of Deerhunter released Parallax on Nov. 7 under the moniker of his side project, Atlas Sound. Parallax delves into the enigma that is Bradford Cox, an Abraham Lincoln lookalike who describes himself as asexual.
To understand the album, you must understand the man. Unfortunately, even Cox seems to be unable to peg himself down, or at least that’s how the album seems. From melancholy and despair to happiness and hope, Bradford sways metaphorically above his listeners, dangling meaning like a fish in front of a hungry bear. The album is undeniably eccentric, going from post-punk to noise-rock and everywhere in between.
Cox cannot set his mind on either charisma or introspection, and treads the fine line between dejection and merriment. In interviews, Cox is open, even blunt: He exposes himself to his audience, unafraid of the consequences of his opinion. He struggles with the opposing forces of record labels and his artistic expression, between the businessmen who demand profits and the music he holds dear. The two themes clash in Atlas Sound, with the artist taking control of the emotions and artistic direction he feels the project should go. Even the cover shouts change, with an introspective Cox clutching a vintage microphone, looking like an old pop star, rocking a pompadour with the steeze of a Hollywood star. The struggle between contemplation and confidence characterizes Parallax, making manifest the advent of an artist.
Stepping away from the cast created in Deerhunter, Cox has shaped a new form in Atlas Sound with a clean-sounding experimental rock. The opening track, “The Shakes,” introduces a theme heard throughout the album: Cox pushes his vocal range to capture the unbalance felt in his introduction to fame and relative wealth. “Found money and fame,” he croons, “but I found them really late.” He sits, waiting for the end. The same existential dilemma haunts the record, pierced by shots of hope. Cox plays with new sound, experimenting with the “shoegaze” genre, a style defined by heavy guitar distortion and fading vocals, and comes in with synth loops typical of electronic music. Replacing tradition with vision, the music transcends the definitions of genre and escapes into itself. “Te Amo” replaces the wispy voice Cox generally employs in his singing with a gruff croak more reminiscent of Hank Williams, Sr. than a new age hipster. From “Te Amo” through half of the album Atlas Sound picks up the tempo before dropping at “Terra Incognita.” The heavy pedal effects in the first half of the LP are scrapped in favor of acoustic pickings and melancholia. Here, Cox gives up the soft voice of Deerhunter to adopt a more confident sound.
The album ends on the same high tempo used in the beginning, dousing the songs with a new pop vibe, moving beyond the post-punk past that Cox developed over the last years. The record ends on “Quark,” a two-piece instrumental, a summation of sorts. The album, an introspective look into the life of Bradford Cox, begins with the reflections of a tired tyrant. He initially, he paints a façade for friends while suffering in silence, surrounded by the material separating him from true inspiration. By the middle of the album Cox finds love in “Te Amo,” and muses over the loss of the naivety in the creation of his art, brought the artist’s ultimate sell out as he bends to the pressure of society. “Quark” combines the synth loops and instrumental tracks of the former songs, molding them into a calm summation, a look forward following the introspection of the album. In the end the monomaniac Bradford Cox breaks the obsession with the ego, ending the album on a reserved and optimistic note.
This album is well worth anyone’s time, and WCFM gives it a two thumbs up!