Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Atlas Sound - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (2008)

4.5 ★/9.0 - 9.9

Anyone who finds themselves indifferent to this album and only liking the obligatory single "River Cards" (Or, more justifiably, the excellent "Bite Marks", which sounds like Aphex Twins doing Weezer's "Only In Dreams"), may want to reconsider their approach. Bradford Cox's solo experiment should not be taken in anywhere near the same vein as his other band, Deerhunter. Ultimately, that band is about pop-rock. Atlas Sound may be under the guise of a dreamier version of the same thing, but these songs are above and beyond such restricting structures. Instead, Cox crafts a full-blooded ambient album, layering his walls of sound to create a 50 minute transportation to another world that is weightless, transcendent, and above all, gorgeous.

Like most ambient music, enjoyment develops out of repeated listens. Only then do otherwise bland songs reveal the subtle elements that make them interesting and engaging. "On Guard" would be a bore if not for the way hand claps, disembodied voices and a keyboard scale enhance it so effectively. The laser beam phasers of "Scraping Past" begin to fufill as a guitar solo would. The Blade Runner-esque synth pads of "Winter Vacation" add a heavenly quality to an otherwise simple drum machine. The slowly mounting white noise on "Recent Bedroom" make a fascinating tension between beauty and abrasiveness. But the best parts are instrumental tracks like "Ready Set Glow", "After Class" and the title track, which become otherworldly in their simplicity, matching the dreamy aura of similar minded experimentalists (Brian Eno, Panda Bear). It's individual highlights are so good that they almost overshadow the fact that Let The Blind Lead... achieves a certain coherence that very few singer-songwriters seem capable of. It begins with a ghost story, and the rest of the album follows suit, settling into a spectral groove of relentless supernaturalism and beauty. This kind of intimacy and ethereal pulse gets attempted all the time, but not enough of those attempts really get down the single-minded perfection that My Bloody Valentine's masterpiece, Loveless, so stunningly exhibited 17 years ago. This is perhaps the closest anyone will ever get.

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