Live Last Night: Atlas Sound

Bradford Cox (back center) and Atlas Sound kept it mellow, man, at the Black Cat.

"I swear, all the kids got stoned before they came out tonight."

That's what the woman working the door of the Black Cat's backstage said to a friend of hers as she stamped my hand and I made my way into last night's Atlas Sound show. She might've been right. There was certainly a large contingent of show-goers with big Xs on their hands and many of them did seem a bit dazed and confused. Some of them didn't even bother to stand when the headliners took the stage, choosing to remain sitting cross-legged on the floor.

The band didn't mind. Frontman Bradford Cox - who was on fine behavior after a 2007 when that was rarely the case - even encouraged them to stay seated, thinking it would add to the evening's laidback vibe. The show was laidback, but not as much as you'd expect after listening to Atlas Sound's "Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel." The album is a collection of gentle, lo-fi, ambient pop tunes constructed by Cox on his laptop. A five-piece band took the stage on Thursday night and the fleshed-out sound suited the songs very well.

There was certainly a formula at work. The rhythm section found something simple to play over and over again - a rudimentary drumbeat (think early Jesus & Mary Chain) and a toe-tapping bass line. This provided the foundation for the songs, leaving the other three members to create psychedelic sounds on guitar, keyboard and a variety of effects pedals. It ended up sounding like a cross between the spacey shoegaze of Galaxie 500 and the heavier drone rock of Spacemen 3.

A few songs sounded a lot like Deerhunter, Cox's other band, but without the sinister, claustrophobic feeling that band inspires. Atlas Sound used many of the same elements but made everything feel light and airy. Even the grungier numbers felt relaxing. If those kids did indeed partake in some illegal activities beforehand, at least they picked the right show.

By David Malitz |  February 22, 2008; 6:03 PM ET Live Last Night
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Perhaps it was advertised at high schools as a BYOB (bring your own buzz) show.

Posted by: T.D. | February 26, 2008 8:03 AM

No mention of opening acts Valet or White Rainbow's performances? Too bad because I found them far more interesting than Atlas Sound's tired retread of the more interesting bands you listed in your article above. White Rainbow's one man looping mix of Terry Riley influence distorted through psychedelic jams and a slight reggae sensibility was the highlight for me. Valet's stoned, distorted psych-pop songs had the sound that I think Atlas Sound should be striving for. Oh well... just one man's opinion.

Posted by: P.D.S | February 26, 2008 4:32 PM

I missed all of Valet and most of White Rainbow. Had to get my "Lost" on, y'know? What I did see -- er, hear -- of White Rainbow didn't exactly grab me. It seemed like the connecting portions of Panda Bear songs, except without any of the songs to connect to, if that makes any sense. I wanted them to go somewhere but they usually didn't. But I only "saw" 10 minutes, so that's not a fully formed opinion.

Posted by: David | February 26, 2008 5:24 PM

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