Historically, the evocative moniker Atlas Sound served as Bradford Cox’s reassuring refuge from his ancillary duties in Deerhunter. Side projects offer artists an opportunity to reveal other aspects of their creativity at a safe distance from their established selves. Like a musical ‘get out of jail free card’, musicians can redefine themselves through a symbolically new identity without fear of altering the formula which led to their initial success in their proverbial day jobs. The result is a Parallax; a revised interpretation of the artist formed by viewing their work from two parallel, yet distinct perspectives. Beneath a thinly-veiled alter ego, Cox could explore his predilection for all things experimental while evading the expectations that would have restricted him to earlier incarnations of himself. His third outing reveals a more pop-oriented and structured sound that seems a world apart from the introspective meanderings that came to define his second Atlas Sound album Logos.
Parallax is a kaleidoscopic exploration of Cox’s inner world; a capricious and expansive musical journey that seeks to dissolve the linearity of a traditional album structure. The emotional sentiment of the album unfolds in counterpointing waves of elation and ambivalence. The optimistic shades of ‘Mona Lisa’ are immediately replaced by the melancholic hues of the proceeding ‘Praying Man’. While Cox’s music still retains that trademark propensity for layered melodies, tracks like ‘Modern Aquatic Night Songs’ display a more refined and focused approach to instrumentation. The listless shoe gazing of his earlier post-punk efforts subsides as piano and guitar lines advance in unison towards a predetermined point.
A celestial ambience envelopes a number of tracks like a sci-fi security blanket; phaser sounds spiral out from the fringes of the restrained electro-acoustic ballad ‘Amplifiers’ to cloak Cox’s increasingly prominent vocals. His stream of consciousness writing style develops the exploratory theme of the album by encircling the lyrical subject of each song without ever forcing a singular interpretation on the listener. The arcing piano and timpani arpeggios that introduce ‘Te Amo’ resonate like the opening bars of a cinematic soundtrack; enticing its introverted protagonist towards the song’s foreground. Cox’s strained crooning replicates that trademark Bono wail; leaping from introspective lows to a broken falsetto in the high registers. Shades of other iconic frontmen emanate from his revised persona like a performance piece unfolding with each new track.
Parallax is a thought-provoking and elusive album that reveals a new kernel of meaning with each consecutive listen. Deceptively simple and hauntingly profound, Cox creates an ephemeral landscape of panoramic proportions, which evolves over the course of the 12-song collection. Like a modernist writer, Cox’s voyage of self-discovery offers us a portrait of the artist surveyed from a multitude of oblique angles.