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Atlas Sound - Logos

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Artist: Atlas Sound

Album: Logos

Label: Kranky

Review date: Nov. 4, 2009

The appeal of Bradford Cox, in whatever guise, is his play for the big stakes. He doesn’t necessarily seek universal popularity, but he is speaking to everyone. The goal is not to be background music in an episode of Gossip Girl and become a touchstone for 10,000 (1,000?). The goal is not to be a pawn in the game of cred. Marianne Faithful once remarked that she respected Beck because she sensed he was a (fellow) "lifer," in it for keeps. Doesn’t matter what one thinks of any of their music – the idea that some musicians have no choice is a good one, and sometimes we can sense it regardless of how the music sounds.

This is also said about writers, i.e., "you should only write if you can’t not." This isn’t true, but when the reader/listener can discern the difference, it colors everything. For example, it’s obvious listening to Vampire Weekend (if one can stomach it) that this is their particular way to sweep up the golden crumbs. On the other hand, I am certain that Jandek is making music in every alternate historical reality.

Therefore, if I listen to Vampire Weekend and find it great, I am embarrassed because I’ve been tricked by callow gamblers. If I listen to Atlas Sound and find it great, I am happy about being human. I am happy that our need to make and find beauty transcends sociology, and I am happy that it can create connections as intimate as that between performer and listener, or so broad that everyone is touched. I begrudge Vampire Weekend their success. I hope that Bradford Cox succeeds.

This becomes even more important in case the work is minor, as is Logos. The tone is pretty good – lonely Velvet Underground, played in a bedroom; sloppy drums, lilting guitar, muffled voice, effects stripped out and supplemented afterward like vitamins. But the songs are slippery, difficult to apprehend even as they’re playing.

If this were the only Cox effort I’d heard, would I understand that it was a small sun in an important universe? I think so, because like all art it communicates. Logos opens a portal through which its artist tells us something about who he is, and though this is not everything, it is enough.

By Josie Clowney

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