Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Album Reviews - Atlas Sound, Times New Viking, Magnetic Fields

Atlas Sound – Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
[Kranky; 19/02/2008]

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Bradford Cox is a busy man in the productive sense. Never one to shy away from banter, the beauty about Cox is that when he talks the talk, he walks the walk; again, this is a facet many of his contemporaries fail to employ.

Atlas Sound’s “Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel” is the latest installment that Cox has been engrossed with and the results follow the success of his work with Deerhunter and in particular last year’s breakthrough opus, “Cryptograms”.

Atlas Sound focuses on a more eclectic cinematic feel, with the mix of “LTBLTWCSBCF” playing as the key figurehead of success. The emotion that Cox manages to convey is a lot darker and emotional than any of his previous material and moody soundscapes and brooding sample loops, with tracks like ‘Scraping Past’ and ‘Bite Marks’ being the primary force of the band’s attack.

Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Cox himself will tell you that Atlas Sound has a host of shoegaze bands to thank for this effort. He’s always been an artist who embeds his musical influences into his own sound, and in unpretentious fashion, has been the first to admit this. Again, this is something that a lot of his fellow musical contemporaries fail to master.

Times New Viking – Rip If Off
[Matador; 29/01/2008]

I guess the only sane thing to do in Columbus, Ohia is grab a couple of guitars and make a bit of noise. Times New Viking do this pretty well, it has to be said. Making noise is one thing., making good music is different gravy, though.

The trio returns with their third album “Rip It Off” which follows last year’s ice breaker “Present to the Paisley Reich”. Again, Times New Viking takes the low-fi approach, with songs ending before they even begin. This is basically “Rip It Off” in a nutshell.

We all like pepper and salt, but sometimes, when there’s too much of it, then it takes away the taste from the main feature off the menu. That’s one way to describe a perpetuating blanket of fuzz is that rolls through “Rip It Off”.

Maybe this is all a part of some concept. Maybe Times New Viking doesn’t want their music to be heard in its full capacity. To be honest, it seems a bit too much and the fuzz acts like a fire blanket to disguise insecurities that this band could have for one reason or another.

The Magnetic Fields - Distortion
[Nonesuch Records; 15/01/2008]

The smell of irony; does anybody deliver it better than Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields. From the lyrics, to the sound, it’s all one lush affair that represents indie-rock in its finest hour.

“Distortion” (title itself speaks volumes; no pun intended) is a representation of the reemergence of shoegaze. In fact, with all of the reemerging going on these days, maybe that’s not the best way to describe it. I mean, really, did sound improvisation ever go away?

The rhythm section is a tribute to The Jesus and Mary Chain, while the instrumentation is like Kevin Shields having just parted company with tremolo. Despite the latter almost sounding unthinkable, there is light at the end of the tunnel and “Distortion” could well be that light.

Merrit’s ability of irony is evident from front to back on this affair. ‘Too Drunk to Drink’ is a shout-out for the masses of morons flooding society, while ‘California Girls’ pays homage to clichés the state itself represents to the outside world.

If ever there was an album to listen to for summer and the winter, “Distortion” has to be as close as anything that will get the job done. Stephin Merrit’s latest release will certainly not be lost on those who care to pay attention.

By Simon

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