Atlas Sound: Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel

For this listener at least, Bradford Cox's solo debut, Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, is a whole lot more interesting than the comparatively more predictable indie-punk material he's issued as part of the Deerhunter collective. Cox's Atlas Sound release is a classic “bedroom” production: fourteen experimental collages and breathy pop anthems that pursue divergent paths yet cumulatively cohere into an appealing portrait. Helped along by Nudge's Brian Foote, Cox deploys laptop-based production techniques to spawn melancholic meditations tinged with psychedelia and dissonance and teeming with multiple sound sources including electronics, guitars, and voices.

The instrumentation used to produce the 6/8 shoegaze ballad “Recent Bedroom”—music box, vibraphone, hagstrom guitar, fender bass, acoustic and electronic percussion—is indicative of Cox's resourceful approach to the album's sonic character. Representative of the album's imaginative range is “Cold As Ice” which merges spindly guitar lines and a light African feel with a languid, vocal-based mix of pop and house. Cox states that the album has a lot to do with childhood and the fourteen-song collection starts fittingly enough with a 1983 tape recording of a seven-year-old boy improvising a story in “A Ghost Story.” Every song offers one surprise or another: a techno pulse underscores the blossoming church ambiance of “Winter Vacation,” the ‘60s-styled guitar pop of “Ativan” calls to mind bands like The Ventures, and the swooning pop of “River Card” is as heavenly as the feathery choir that floats through its background. A trace of Deerhunter can be heard in the guitar wail haunting the hazy house wobble of “Scraping Past” while the title track's slow-motion waves of treated dulcimer, organ, and mbira coalesce into a stately haze that wouldn't sound out of place on a Tim Hecker recording. The album also includes a goodly share of peyote-fueled instrumentals and disoriented hallucinations (“Small Horror,” “Ready, Set, Glow,” “After Class”).

Lyrics in “Quarantined” suggest that Cox is restless and eager to move on (“Quarantined and so far away from my friends / I am waiting to be changed”); if his tenure with Deerhunter is over, Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel certainly argues that Cox should have no trouble establishing himself as a solo act.

February 2008