First off let me just say I am not a fan of Atlas Sound or Deerhunter. Not to say I don’t like them, I had just never had the chance to hear them. So being the douche bag scenester I am, when I heard about this gig I just had to go, not because I liked or even knew the music, but because a bunch of my friends were going and I hate to be left out.
Non-prescription glasses and tweed coat on I arrived out the front of Black & Blue to find a mammoth line stretching back up Cleveland St, which I wasted no time pushing into.
The crowd was truly a mix of Sydney’s best and brightest with members of Sherlock’s Daughter, Mercy Arms, Cloud Control, Megastick Fanfare, Bearhug and Jack Ladder all piling into the tiny gallery, still filled with art. As the performance began and Bradford James Cox started playing, there was an almost unspoken agreement that we should all sit down.
The performance was awe-inspiring. Having long been a fan of shoegaze music and math-rock I thought I had surpassed the point of being impressed by loops and delays, but Bradford is a magician with sound, melding layers of guitars with his effect-laden voice to construct ethereal soundscapes that sit in some middle ground between Brian Eno and My Bloody Valentine.
But it wasn’t all about the music as Bradford kept the audience rapt with occasional bouts of hilarity. Memorable moments include his utter chagrin at thanking Triple J instead of FBI, as well as siding with an audience member based on the fact they share the same watch. “I’m going to go with what this guys said cos he’s got my watch,” he said. “He knows what time it is.”
The set lasted for about an hour before Bradford started asking for requests having run out of songs to play, with laughter soon taking over the space as he went back and forth with audience members about their song choices. Not remembering how to play most of the songs recorded, he delighted us with a whacked out cover of I’ll Be Your Mirror from The Velvet Underground and Nico.
Finishing that he again asked for more requests and again delivered some startling stage banter. Deciding to play his last song, a hidden encore it turns out, he mentioned something about going back to the hotel to which an audience member replied with faux incredulousness “they give you a hotel?”
“Yeah, surprising isn’t it?” Bradford retorted. “It’s good though I don’t need to stay at your mum’s place anymore, although there are things I miss about that.”
The audience literally rolling on the floor with laughter, he apologised saying he can’t play a serious song after saying that, instead treating us to an effects pedal jazz odyssey a la Spinal Tap.
It was most definitely an odyssey, though jazz had nothing to do with it. Using minimal instrumentation, Cox built up shimmering walls of delay and loops, adding touches here and there and infusing the music with a sort of sonic colour.
I know that last line sounds like standard media whore double speak but I seriously can’t think of a better way to describe it, it was like the piece started out very black and white melodically yet by picking at his guitar a few times and twisting some nobs he transformed it into a rainbow.
Well this description keeps getting more and more pretentious so I’ll leave it here.
Be sure to have a listen if you’ve never heard the music before and be sure to flood him and Deerhunter with emails so they’ll come back soon.