To the people who don’t know of this guy, the 29-year-old wunderkind has seven albums, four EPs and three split albums under his belt. Not to mention he’s collaborated with the likes of Grizzly Bear and Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear). Oh, and did I mention he’s also released upward of 50 songs on his blog absolutely free of charge? With the amount of material this dude’s released, though, I have to pose the same question to myself year after year (or month after month occasionally): is he doing anything new? Should I even bother with this stuff? With so many pieces of music out there, detractors might tell him to fuck off and take a break. I am not one of those detractors… yet.
With Parallax Cox treads familiar water with tracks like ‘The Shakes’ and ‘Angel Is Broken’, presenting the listener with ambient noise layered with pop song sensibilities, a silky smooth amount of reverberation, and a simple progression of chords that eventually becomes hypnotic (see 2010’s ‘Desire Lines’ from his main band Deerhunter, album name Halcyon Digest). Where his first and second albums had standouts (with some of the best ‘filler’ I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to), like ‘Quarantined’ and ‘Walkabout’, this album has a bit of a power struggle. A power struggle between what Bradford Cox used to be, what he’s doing that’s new now, and what he really shouldn’t be attempting. What he shouldn’t be attempting are tracks like ‘Flagstaff’ — dissonant guitars and ambient music are no stranger to the man, but the way they’re implemented on this track in an attempt to mix up his subject matter just polarizes me.
As I mentioned before, Parallax has some of what Bradford used to do best, but where this album really shines is where no one would have thought. Cox has always decidedly kept his voice shrouded in his mixes, drenched in reverb, modulated, pitch-shifted and sometimes distorted, but where this album pleasantly surprised me is when he abandons that style of production in favor of utilising the sounds of the instruments he’s been using for so long, just without the insane amounts of effects he used to cram them with. When he does this, he shows me he isn’t a one-trick pony, and the two tracks that I’m proud to listen to repeatedly due to the qualities I just mentioned are ‘Te Amo‘ and ‘Terra Incognita‘.
The former caught me absolutely off guard with its seemingly simplistic piano progression and straightforward rhythm production, and only a sparse amount of ambience entering the mix; but what caught me off guard the most was his voice — and more specifically the vocal range he was exploring. The track obliterates my memories of his shrouded mixes and simply makes me crave more of this new production style he’s embraced. I only really get the same feeling with ‘Terra Incognita’, by far the best track on the album that if listened to with proper headphones probably will do what the title states and take you to a land unknown.
Taking everything into account, I haven’t grown tired of the old Bradford Cox and I still enjoy his music, but without the aforementioned two standouts this album would be getting a 7/10 from me.