Multi-instrumentalist Lockett Pundt may be appropriately enigmatic, and bassist Josh Fauver may have written one of their most popular songs, but ultimately, the creative secret to Deerhunter’s success lies in frontman Bradford Cox’s exquisitely eclectic sense of taste – and it goes beyond the impeccably spit-shined shoegaze of the band’s 2008 double masterwork, Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. Through mixtape-cum-zip-file “Micromixes” made available on the band’s blog, Cox has played theoretical DJ to well-versed indie aesthetes and wet-behind-the-ears listeners alike. In terms of sonic theme, the mixes run more scattershot than uniform -- where else could Charlemagne Palestine rub up against Magazine and Wavves? However, they also remain carefully composed, with distinct beginnings and endings.
It’s that artistic structure – sonically disparate elements woven together in a narrative tapestry – that serves as the main aim of Cox’s second solo album under the Atlas Sound moniker, Logos. Drastically different from the version that made the rounds after accidentally leaking through – ironically – Deerhunter’s blog, Logos is an admirably worn, carefully composed record detailing a kaleidoscope of sound.
Almost as if to ease the listener into its genre-hopping tendencies, Logos kicks off with a pair of slowly unraveled ballads, “The Light That Failed” and “An Orchid.” The tunes don’t veer too far from Cox’s comfort zone – the former echoes the lovable glut of Cox’s lo-fi, self-released material, and the latter evokes Pale Saints or Cocteau Twins at their sparest – but it’s the devil in the details that provide dollops of bliss, from the increased lengthening of the lyric “We would never” in “Light” to the chiming tones that emerge from the middle of “An Orchid.”
The record then takes its first of several left turns with the much blogged-about collaboration with Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox, “Walkabout.” The use of the organ hook from the Dovers’ “What Am I Going To Do” lends a 60s psych-pop element to the track, but it’s the opposing ideologies contained in the collaborators’ voices – Cox’s dead-set cool and Lennox’s bell-clear uncertainty – that defines “Walkabout” as strictly of its time, the closing refrain “What did you want to be/ When you grew up” serving to locate the complex disappointment of growing older.
After a pair of downtempo tracks – the shuffling, acoustic dream-pop of “Criminals” and the On the Beach-era Neil Young-evoking “Attic Lights” – Logos hits on its least complex and most overtly pop moment, “Sheila.” Complete with a one-word refrain and endlessly memorable bubblegum melody, “Sheila” concerns itself lyrically with one of Cox’s favorite themes – namely, death. Only this time, Cox frees himself of the corporeal decay that Deerhunter’s lyricism is so often fascinated with and delivers his most direct missive on dying yet: “We’ll die alone, together,” he repeats with sad abandon, only occasionally slowing down the tune to deliver the most affecting statement of Logos’ and, as it happens, Cox’s career: “No one wants to die alone.”
The simple, aching pleasures of “Sheila” are quickly abandoned for the headiest moment on Logos, album centerpiece “Quick Canal.” Featuring pleasantly unintelligible vocal fluttering by Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadler, the eight minutes of endlessly undulating synth patterns and static disruptions within “Quick Canal” may recall Mars Audiac Quintet-period Stereolab, but its perpetually upward trajectory also conveys what it may be like to hurtle through the oxygen-free, permanently dark infinity of space. Give it a few months before somebody mashes this gem up with the impressionistic ending of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Even for the most trained of ears, the expansive nature of “Quick Canal” is a lot to digest. Cox knows this and structures the back quarter of Logos with elegant comedown material: a walking-bassline-led jaunt (“My Halo”), a couple of tape-hissed sound collages (“Kid Klimax,” “Washington School”), and a burning Krautrock closer of a title track. Some will be quick to note that the distorted synth lines of “Logos” strongly recall the title track of Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets, others still will point out that Cox pulled the same trick with Atlas Sound’s debut, last year’s Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel. Fair enough assessment, but as a whole, the variety of pleasantries contained in Logos deliver specific instructions to the listener: don’t expect Bradford Cox to stay in a musical holding pattern for too long.
1. The Light That Failed
2. An Orchid
3. Walkabout [ft. Noah Lennox (Panda Bear)]
5. Attic Lights
7. Quick Canal [ft. Laetitia Sadier]
8. My Halo
9. Kid Klimax
10. Washington School