CAREFUL WHISPERS: On Logos, Cox's detached croak conveys an intimacy that satisfies a vague desire somewhere between eavesdropping and voyeurism.
When last we left Bradford Cox of Deerhunter, it was November of 2008, and he was ready to put that year to bed. A couple of months earlier, an eager fan downloading one of Cox's many "virtual seven-inches" had sleuthed out a whole Mediafire folder full of goodies that Cox had posted but not protected — tracks even better-sounding than those he'd post to his blog like notes slid from under his door.
This unmastered trove came in two forms: what would be Weird Era Cont. — a bonus Deerhunter EP intended to salve the suckage of the premature leak of Microcastle (Kranky) — and a chunk of scruffy-sounding demos titled Logos credited to Cox's solo excursions as Atlas Sound. The shitshow that ensued was the stuff of blog legend, with Cox freaking, lashing out, giving up, declaring Logos dead, then deleting the whole string, apologizing, and attempting to ignore the hundreds of douches who would spend the remainder of 2008 flaming him on every available comment surface: "drama queen," "calculating," "e-stupid."
"I think I'm giving people too much," was the last thing he told me. "Too much music, too much exposure. It's not a good way to keep stable. It's like media chemotherapy."
Zip ahead one year and Deerhunter are suddenly on hiatus, Cox is heading out on tour (at the Paradise next Thursday) but lagging from a three-week bout with pneumonia, and Logos (Kranky) has only now reached its official release date. Were it not for Cox's private output on his blog, 2009 might have seemed as equally disheartening a year. But the refinements made, edges smoothed, and ideas more firmly installed in Logos since those rough mock-ups more than make up for what might have seemed like lost time.
For Cox, the metaphor of "getting big" simply doesn't apply. Whereas the common rock trajectory of success is an outward explosion (followed by dissolution), his pull is inward. Although Logos is more sonically sophisticated than Atlas Sound's 2008 debut, Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, the close quarters of each track, along with Cox's detached, barely woken croak, convey an intimacy that satisfies a vague desire, somewhere between eavesdropping and outright voyeurism.
Opener "The Light That Failed" suggests that the things at which Deerhunter excelled Cox might be better off handling solo. Acoustic guitars lilt lazily over chimes and squishy electronic textures while he sends stray, shaky lines into the twilit sky. "Criminals" is a bedroom waltz, Cox at his most folksy; "Shelia" finds him pitting his usual nihilism against an unusually straightforward longing ("We'll die alone together/Die alone together/Die alone together"). "Kid Klimax" is a gorgeous refinement of Deerhunter strategies (like gradually thickening textures eventually burning off over long, uncertain endings) — it's perhaps the first time that Cox solo doesn't sound lonely, somewhat bored, or worse yet, abandoned. He actually sounds free.
Of course, sometimes freedom means becoming other bands: satisfying collaborations with Noah Lennox ("Walkabout") and Laetitia Sadler ("Quick Canal") sound not unlike Animal Collective and Stereolab, respectively. Like the "micromixes" on his site, these are little glimpses into the many ways Cox has musically imagined himself over the years. And though it's clear he's still sorting out who he is, Logos is a promising indicator that he can rise above the fray, outlive the hype, outshine the drama, and thrive in privacy — even when it's public.
ATLAS SOUND + BROADCAST + THE SELMANARIES | Paradise Rock Club, 967 Comm Ave, Boston | October 22 at 9 pm | 18 | $15 | 617.562.8800 or www.thedise.com