BRADFORD COX

From VMAN’s Winter 2011/12 issue, VMAN 24 The Decades Issue

THE BEST OF MUSIC 2011: BRADFORD COX

FROM A NEW CULT IDOL TO A PHILOSOPHER OF POP, TO AN ALBUM ABOUT ALIENS, TO HIP HOP’S GOLDEN ANTIHERO—THIS YEAR’S SOUNDTRACK WAS WINSOME, WEIRD, OTHERWORLDLY, AND WHATEVER

Text Patrik Sandberg
Photography Ryan McGinley

One of Atlanta’s most prolific songwriters, Bradford Cox returns this month with his third LP under the moniker of Atlas Sound. Known for his incisive lyrics and aerial melodies as much as for his tendency to give songs away for free online, Cox has developed a sound that is at once spatial and confined, achieving an intimate feeling of exploration that is so sensory it’s difficult to try to describe.

On Parallax, the Deerhunter front man flexes the ever-expanding muscle of his craft over twelve atmospheric, pulsating melodies. “I first heard the term used by Mark E. Smith on the Fall’s Hex Enduction Hour as a teenager,” Cox says of the title. “I came back to it for this record after seeing a Dutch film called For a Forgotten Soldier, about a love affair between an American soldier and a young boy in Amsterdam during World War II. It left me feeling disturbed. It got me thinking about perspectives on tragic situations like sexual abuse, and how the pain is probably equal for both people involved. It’s about how one thing in space—emotional or geographic—seems different from two viewpoints or perspectives.”

Populous with chiming arpeggios, floaty space echoes, and hushed, layered vocals, Cox describes the album as being inspired by mid-century rock and “sci-fi fever dreams,” an idea nurtured by Broadcast’s Trish Keenan, who passed away earlier this year. “It was her idea for me to make what we kept referring to as an ‘alien’ record,” he says. “These are the kinds of discussions you have on tour during a twelve-hour drive. There is a certain loneliness on the record that reminds me of a lunar landscape. Maybe it feels kind of eerie or empty.” Cox’s repetitive musical motifs make for opiate lullabies or a zoned-out driving soundtrack, especially on tracks like “Mona Lisa” and “Amplifiers,” but his proclivity toward a more classic rock and roll thrust beams through on the upbeat “My Angel Is Broken” and on the closing track, “Nightworks.”

“I became very obsessed with dust-covered jukebox catalogs and spray-painting bass strings and snares,” he says. “I fell in love with Ricky Nelson singing ‘Lonesome Town’ with tired eyes. Film grain and erotic, space insect posturing. The aesthetic was, as usual, very much dictated by free association and stream of consciousness. I enjoy making music freely and without editing, then figuring out later what I meant by all of it.”

Parallax is available in November from 4ad