Review : Maps & Atlases - Perch Patchwork
PitchforkMaps & Atlases released a few EPs before Perch Patchwork, their debut full-length, and the band has done a fair amount of growing up in the meantime. Those early releases were classic math-rock, typified by busy guitar lines borrowed from 90s bands like Don Caballero. Maps & Atlases are far from the only band from Chicago to use that sound as a starting point, but they're one of the few to try and move it forward and successfully translate it into pop songs. Perch Patchwork almost leaves the flashy musicianship entirely behind; when it is there, it puts it to good use-- here they turn their quirks into something diverse and accessible.
Foremost among those is Dave Davison's voice-- a reedy, almost froggy baritone. (Think Mark Morrison of "Return of the Mack" and you're not far off.) Yet he sings naturally and confidently, and even carries many of the songs here on the strength of his performance. "The Charm" builds to layered, clattering percussion with no melody at all save for Davison's vocal line-- the anchor and selling point of an affecting love song. Elsewhere, the band is at its best when it leaps furthest outside of its comfort zone: "Solid Ground" forgoes complicated instrumental lines in favor of layered production, where guitar, bass, and voice contribute only a fraction of the song's many earworms. The same goes for the bubbly power-pop of "Israeli Caves"; these are melodically busy tracks, but every addition is balanced and thoughtful, no performer stepping over another, all serving the song....full text
SputnikmusicWell, this is a surprise. Maps and Atlases have gone and made a pop record. To be honest, their previous work wasn't that far removed from being user friendly. It still had more hooks than a barrel of monkeys and was rather straightforward in its direction, but it was what was contained within, a conglomerate of zany start stop rhythms - hypnotizing finger tapped guitars bouncing back and forth like a coked up squirrel, that warped their pop sensibilities into something palatable for more adventurous music fans. So it is rather shocking that one of the States' most endearing math-rock bands have decided to drop the math all together. Now let us all take a collective deep breath, forget everything we though we knew about the Chicagoans, and see Perch Patchwork for what it really is: a band stripping itself down to the core.
For the longest time it was Dave Davison's guitar, not his voice, that was the focal point in Maps and Atlases music, but now the band have made a 180 degree change in their approach to songwriting. It's a big gamble given the nasally timbre of his voice, but where there is no risk there is no reward, and on Perch Patchwork the reward is huge. No longer shackled to the confines of having to create a viable vocal melody within cooky time signatures, Davison explores all directions of his range. The dip from his usual pitchy idiosyncratic warbling into a somewhat forced baritone on “The Charm” may be somewhat odd on its own, but when his hummably sweet melody is coupled with cascading drums and sparse, droning guitar swells it recalls the same nu-folk sensibilities that defined Animal Collective's work before they went on their electronic acid trip. Elsewhere on Perch Patchwork, such as the aptly titled “Israeli Caves”, Maps and Atlases' varying array of both western and eastern influences coalesce into them beating Vampire Weekend at their own game, taking the syncopated African rhythms that were introduced to American listeners back in the 80's with Paul Simon's Graceland and mixing them with the flair Middle Eastern of melodies and a strong background in 60's art-rock. Even when reaching back to their older, more technical sound on “Pigeon”, it is deconstructed into its base essence and put back together through this new world conscious musical vision, compiling an artful smorgasbord of tribal sounds with their new found take on the most adventurous of American folk.....full text
LoveshackbabyMaps & Atlases are one of those bands that serve as a Rorscach Test for music lovers. People hear their one-of-a-kind blend of rock and roll and map onto it whatever genre they’re most interested in at the moment. Tune your ears to Chris Hainey’s drumming and easily label this band as “math-rock.” Focus your gaze on Dave Davidson or Erin Elder’s finger tapping guitarwork and you’ll walk away with some notion of a Don Caballero-influenced genius. Take in the songs on this new album, especially as they’re played live, and this band is all chaos infused, indie-pop. But with nearly 6 years together, Maps & Atlases is still re-inventing the sounds we expect to hear come swirling out of guitars, drums, and bass. And I haven’t even touched on the vocals yet!
Perch Patchwork, the debut LP by Maps & Atlases, coming out June 29 on Barsuk Records, has pleased me more each time I’ve heard it. None of those listens have even slightly approached the experience of being front row, center at Metro last week when they opened for Frightened Rabbit. The sonorous decadence of the album simply exploded from the stage and the audience had no way of being prepared for it. I was thrilled. The band was humbled by their reaction. The applause echoed loudly off them after each break, and if they felt they needed to test this new material on a hometown audience, they were mistaken. Perch Patchwork stands on it’s own as a solid record of achievement. And yet it progresses fluidly from their two EPs. From their very accessible and yet elaborate compositions on Trees, Swallows, Houses and slightly less intricate but equally innovative songs of You and Me and The Mountain, these twelve tracks span the scope of both previous EPs,and this new LP stretchs this band further afield into more clearly defined pop realms. Dave’s voice simply sings more. I was not alone in humming along with him on “The Charm” that night; it’s a catchy tune and by the second verse you pick up where he’s going with it. This record is full of moments where Dave’s vocals nearly stand alone and we simply loved it. “Pigeon” also features a memorable few lines of lyrics accompanied by the sparsest of guitar melodies, soon joined by increasing percussion with a sort of South African feel (think of a few tracks off of that brilliant Paul Simon album, Graceland.) But don’t worry, there’s plenty of noise to this too. “Solid Ground” the single released in advance of the album, surely demonstrates that the band is in excellent shape. It was a joy to see them interact on stage and feel their chemistry....full text
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