After witnessing Polvo’s attempt to effectively eviscerate the Brillobox’s monitors last week with an arena-sized version of mathy, progressive rock, and taking what was previously considered a fairly austere and impenetrable genre to somewhat accessible extremes, Chicago quartet Maps & Atlases make their way to the Lawrenceville mainstay (along with hype machine Cults and Laura Stevenson and the Cans) to exhibit yet another permutation of the sound pioneered by the likes of Don Caballero and Slint.
Brandishing a fully developed folk-pop sensibility and technical acumen that would put many groups to shame, Maps & Atlases have cultivated a sound that is both intricate and inviting, incorporating swirling pieces of mathy percussion, rubbery guitar work and head spinning harmonies that slowly evolves into the post-rock equivalent of Fleet Foxes.
Their 2010 release Perch Patchwork stands as the group’s most assured document of their fully formed aesthetic, surpassing 2008’s You Me and the Mountain EP in terms of accessibility and pure catchiness. Patchwork’s best tracks teetering between the wistful joy of contemporary folk and off-kilter harmonies and time signatures. “The Charm” quakes and buzzes before ascending into a whirlwind wall of industrial percussion, allowing lead singer Dave Davison to soar with venom, reciting lines like “I don’t think there is a sound that I hate more,/than the sound of your own voice,” and “after all, you felt so small, it is hard.”
“Pigeon” bounces back and forth on the legs of an elastic guitar piece before breaking down into an island infused sway, complete with kettle drums and a horn section; “Solid Ground” again allows Davison a quiet gateway before splashing down into the prog-folk of the track’s final two-thirds. Maps & Atlases are consumed by crafting whirling dervishes of composition, cyclically generating momentum from heady percussion and Davison’s rousing croon until every plate is spinning on a stick, carefully balanced and wavering only slightly. The live show should be a sight to behold.