Maps & Atlases
[Rating: 3.5 Stars]
When critics start throwing around terms like “math rock,” a lot of fans back off. Still, Chicago’s Maps & Atlases manage to make their songs both technically sound and pleasant sounding. Equal parts lo-fi folk and hi-tech looping riffs, they conjure the ethereal softness of Grizzly Bear and the measured madness of Battles.
Part of what makes Maps & Atlases successful may be the presence of an additional, more organic instrument in Dave Davison’s voice. Much like the meticulously arranged band behind him, Davison’s pipes can turn on a dime and switch musical directions effortlessly. On “Will” and throughout the record, his measured croon blends seamlessly into the fabric of the song, but lends some subtle edge to the clean-cut compositions.
The tracks on Perch Patchwork are as varied as the band’s overall sound. “Pigeon” begins and ends with Davison singing over a simple guitar ditty, but two minutes of luau party music joyfully interrupt the otherwise harmless and sleepy tune. “Was” employs a toy piano, while the title track is layered with delicate harmonies and strings. For the half hour that this beautifully oddball symphony persists, it’s hard to determine where anything begins or ends- a track, an instrument, Davison’s voice, or the music itself. And that’s a good thing.