By Russell Warfield
July 19, 2012
Well, we didn’t get an hour long rendition of ‘My Sharona,’ but we did—at the behest of a heckler—get an extended blues/noise blowout improvisation about a pet raccoon called ‘Saxophone’ which Bradford nurtured as a child. We also got a mid-set period of about twenty minutes or so of Bradford visibly disintegrating from jet lag in front of our eyes, rambling on a stream of consciousness bent about how a mate of his lied about having an Android. We also—on the other side of the coin—got a mesmerising, all-consumingly captivating fifteen minute version of Parallax highlight ‘Te Amo.’ Put most simply, we got a full two fucking hours of Bradford Cox’s time—the rough with the smooth, the alienating with the ethereal, the frustrating with the exhilarating.
The first time I saw Bradford Cox live was with Deerhunter in 2008 where, after entering the stage for an encore, he proceeded to have what I took to be something of a mental breakdown in front of my eyes, spending a good twenty minutes trying to call his own mother through the sound desk, and subsequently leaving a sprawling, try-explaining-that-one-in-the-morning message on her answer phone. Since then, I’ve learned that’s just Bradford being Bradford. And while, when performing with Deerhunter, his band mates manage to reel in his wildest on stage eccentricities, Bradford’s his own man in an Atlas Sound show, and there’s nobody—except the clearly restless attendees, from time to time—to get Cox back on track when he’s losing himself in self indulgence.
It’s a shame, because the peaks of tonight’s show are phenomenal, and rival anything Cox has ever achieved with Deerhunter. As I’ve mentioned, ‘Te Amo’ is the show stopping highlight, turning its skipping guitar run inside out and upside down over the course of a powerfully building cascade of sound, showcasing both Cox’s mad professor capabilities, as well as his often downplayed skills as a bread and butter guitarist. As Deerhunter have begun sanding off its edges on record, and Atlas Sound has become more rock and guitar based, it’s become a little unclear how autonomous and distinct Cox’s two projects are—on record at least. But performances like this more than justify Atlas Sound’s existence—using shimmering electronics, interlaced vocal loops, and menacing drones to similarly psychedelic ends as Deerhunter, but through distinctly different means.
But unfortunately Bradford seems to be on a one man mission to constantly sabotage and undermine the atmosphere of his own performance. Had he come on and blown us way with ‘Te Amo’ as an opener (rather than an a cappella, and a sludgey, clearly under-cooked new number), and pushed through other set highlights like ‘Angel Is Broken’ and ‘Amplifiers’ without shattering punctuations of mood, then this could’ve been one seriously powerful hour of music. Sadly, odd interruptions—some out of Bradford’s control, but mostly not—broke the spell at every turn, meaning that he effectively had to start from scratch with each new song, resulting in a show which was twice as long as it might be, and half as satisfying.