Towards the end of his set at the Center for the Arts in Eagle Rock, Atlas Sound, a.k.a. Bradford Cox of Deerhunter, looked to the side of staged and mouthed “5 minutes!? 15?” It was the first of two shows he would play that night, and it would seem his set was cut short because of this. The Center for Arts has a strict noise curfew and the second show had to start on time at 9. Which is a real shame because up until that point he was putting on a fantastic show.
Rarely do a venue and a performer come together like they did here, with his ambient tinged pop music filling the small and homey confines of the Center. A large part of the set list for the night came off of his new album Parallax (4AD), and the bedroomesque qualities of songs like Te Amo or Modern Aquatic Nightsongs were pleasantly accentuated by the venue, with the exception of the giant neon Bank of America sign glowing over his shoulders through the window.
The night started with two acts from Cox’s hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, guitarist Frankie Broyles and Carnivores. Broyles made more bedroom pop music based around looping guitars—it felt heavily indebted to Atlas Sound’s own work. Carnivores offered a nice change of pace with a livelier set of enjoyable but forgettable garage rock. While there was nothing wrong with either act, the night certainly belonged to Mr. Cox.
Playing alone, Cox switched frequently between an acoustic, electric, and bass guitar, looping one before switching to another to construct his densely atmospheric songs on the spot. Songs were linked together by jammier ambient sections, which let Cox’s natural ear for pop melodies stand-out against the noise. This style worked well on the new songs, but was perhaps best in the way it recast two songs from Atlas Sound’s last album, Logos, Walkabout and Shelia. Sheila especially shone, with its refrain of “No one wants to die alone” filling the room.
On the cover of Logos, Cox’s face is obscured by a flash of light. But on Parallax the cover is a portrait of his face holding a vintage microphone, echoing the more personal nature of the songs on that album. That aspect really came out in his performance, especially on the title track, with Cox singing “Give me pain/Give me bruises.” The yearning love of album standout Te Amo similarly shone in ways it couldn’t on the album. Ending with Modern Aquatic Nightsongs and Terra Incognita off the new album, Cox seemed to have no interest in stopping when they called to him from the side of the stage, the only downfall of an otherwise brilliant performance.