Atlas Sound - Bedroom Databank Vol. 1

Bradford Cox has wowed the music world countless times before, under the moniker Atlas Sound, and via his excellent four-piece ambient band Deerhunter. The difference in sound, between the whispering, sound-wall generating, softness of Deerhunter, and the work done as Atlas Sound is subtle, but it boils down to an increased feeling of intimacy and naturalness when comparing the latter to the former. Atlas Sound always sounds more spare and human, built on fragile lines of carefully chosen notes, while Deerhunter is boisterous and musically large. This contrast is beautiful, and simply adds to Cox's resume and repertoire, making him one of the most dynamic indie composers of this not-quite-lost-but-nearly generation.

On Bedroom Databank Vol .1, Cox employs the DIY aesthetic, dropping this album as a free download that also offers a peak into the quiet, underproduced beauty of a small, in-basement concert. The album is relaxed, adorned with light acoustic guitar and harmonica, and feels utterly bohemian. At least in the early going ("Green Glass Bottles" and "There Were My Walls"), but on "Wild Love" Cox ups the ante, bringing in fuzz, synthesized tracks and overlaid vocal accompaniment to create a more lush experience. It remains that distant, vaguely effete vibe, much like listening to a dream overdubbed by a chorus of strange voices, but it never peaks to that Deerhunter size. Until "Lanterns" where Cox brings in an even more complex and intriguing structure of sounds and beats that feel churning, nearly like a dance track, but build to a more peaceful than motivating ultimate experience. It is a song that feels self-aware and mechanical at the same time, and one that lends itself to constant repeat treatment. As a loop, it create a tone of focused confusion.

"New Romantic" takes the album in a completely different direction, with its subtle Spanish influence, and country-bluesy trimmings. Cox even brings a fuzzy, scratched record-type pop to the backing track, lending an undeniable nostalgia to a song that feels like it has time-traveled. The acoustic, heart-felt mode marches on with the whispering and guitar-plucked "Cynics Recourse" drops a traditional blues scale behind mournful, airy vocals. But, in an album by an artist as dynamic as this one, we must shift again. On "Freak Train," a Kurt Vile cover, Cox arranges a fast, rousing, improvisational-feeling, pseudo-jazz track that lives by video game theme style tones and repetition. The also heavily-synthesized "Afternoon Drive" follows, this one as a mood piece that feels watery, contemplative and magical. No vocals ruin the mood piece, instead, the song builds slowly, to a subtle top and then cools off. "Hotel Orlando" turns everything back on its head, with a song that feels like a blues-rock album straight from the mid-seventies. Cox sings his clearest, and gutsiest here, pushing his voice to growl at times, but still reliant somewhat on the fuzz.

What follows, almost as a mark of direct inspiration, is a cover of Bob Dylan's "This Wheel's on Fire." Cox does a beautiful job putting his own mark on the track, keeping the acoustic guitar and light percussion, and filling it with echo and subtle bits of distortion. It is reminiscent of the cover version by Siouxie and the Banshees, but slowed down enough for a new flavor. The closing track "Postcard" is a staccato blend of xylophone-sounding tones bouncing in and out of the track. It is unsettling, but in a way, the title gives it significance because the track, like postcards, presents only a taste of a conversation, a tidbit, that never paints a complete picture. Overall, Bedroom Databank Vol. 1 is a pure and delightful exercise. It offers a sampling of Cox's more intimate compositions, and still manages to feel full and powerful.

Volumes 2 - 4 are now also available. It's worth it! Take a few seconds, download and enjoy!

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