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Atlas Sound: Parallax
His cult fame as frontman of experimental rockers Deerhunter has rewarded momentum to Bradford Cox’s solo project Atlas Sound. Still active in both endeavours, Cox works on the mantra that time waits for no man, and has churned out eight albums since 2005.
Like Deerhunter’s gradual break from earlier experimental records to the much more lucid Halcyon Digest in 2010, Cox has similarly delivered Parallax as a much more articulate and solid piece of work. This isn’t to say the twelve songs are awash in a sea of sameness or even regularity. But had some of these appeared anywhere among some of the mainstream rock acts in the last fifty years, they would have had no trouble making their way into the mainstream psyche.
For example, ‘The Shakes’, in which Cox sings through the mind of a musician weary of fame, sets a classic melancholic David Bowie sentiment to a 50s track. However, a song like ‘Te Amo’ reeks of 80s light synths, intermittent electronic bass notes and echoed vocals. The same can be said for ‘Modern Aquatic Nightsongs’, which is one of the simpler and stripped down tracks.
Title track ‘Parallax’ and ‘Lightsworks’ visit 60s psychedelia, with the latter in particular using the harmonica to a muted Bob Dylan effect.
‘Mona Lisa’, which features MGMT frontman Andrew VanWyngarde, is one of a number of songs that, in contrast to the darker Atlas Sound back catalogue, is an uncomplicated but catchy indie-folk jingle of a song. In similar fashion, ‘Praying Man’ is given edge by the simultaneous verve and strain of Cox’s voice. ‘My Angel is Broken’ also conveys the same solemn but hopeful sound.
Cox continues to channel and challenge his influences; he’s a true pupil of rock music. The thing that Cox excels at most is how he uses his voice; he creates melodies with his vocals, and always compliments his intricately constructed instrumentals instead of just following them. It’s how he can stand to be influenced by such an eclectic range of music and still sound interesting, dreamy and timeless.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
Ever since the 2012 release of their double a-side single, ‘Flying To Berlin/Husbands’, Savages have occupied an interesting space in the musical spectrums. With a mixture of old school post-punk and noise rock, they appear to be the perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans. Their frenetic, dark, and sinisterly beautiful style has been receiving rave reviews the world over from critics and fans alike and their latest EP Adore Life is more of the same.
This is an album about love, but one would hesitate to call any of the tracks traditional love songs. Instead of falling into classic song writing tropes about how amazing love is, Savages instead approach the subject matter from a much darker perspective. This is an album about the true power of love, nd how that isn’t always a good thing.
The opening track, ‘The Answer’, heaves with energy from the get go, telling the story of an almost obsessive infatuation, with frontwoman Jehnny Beth (real name Camille Berthomier) repeating the words “If you don't love me/You don't love anybody” throughout the song just to drive home the fact that love can be a dangerous force. The hectic instrumentation provides a binary opposition to Beth’s sweet tones and is the perfect start to the record.
That is not to say that Adore Life is unrelenting in its aggression. This album is a mixture of forceful distortion, British post-punk and torch songs, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the song ‘Adore’. It’s slow, it’s bassy, it’s reverby (is that even a word?) it’s dark, but above all, beautiful. Concluding with a lyrical coda accompanied by a slow crescendo, it sounds like something you would hear in a smoky Paris café at 3AM. Make no mistakes, this is an early contender for one of the best songs of 2016.
Even towards the end of the album, they manage to keep the energy up. The penultimate track, ‘T.I.W.YG’, is almost a sequel to ‘The Answer’ in terms of style and narrative. The instrumentation provides an organised cacophony to truly drive home the fact that, this is what you get when you mess with love.
For what is only a second album, Adore Life shows a surprising maturity from the London-based female foursome. The lyrics are emotive without being contrived, the instrumentation is varied without being schizophrenic and the style is classic without being clichéd. This is more neo-post punk as opposed to post-punk revival and thank god it is, because the last thing we need is another attempt to revive a past genre. Remember the comment about the band being perfect cross-section of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Swans? This album hits the nail on the head, being equal parts a love song to the past and an ode to the fuzzy future.