x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Maps and Atlases attempt to escape their "math-rock" fate

Davison's distinctively reedy voice may deter the masses, but moments of lyrical beauty await those fortunate enough to discover this fine band.

Maps and Atlases
Beware and Be Grateful
FatCat
****

The word "mathematics" still instils a chill in those of us who once struggled with the subject, which probably amounts to a sizeable percentage of the world's population. So when a spate of wilfully complex bands emerged a few years ago and were collectively dubbed "math-rock", they looked set to remain a rather niche proposition.

Chicago's Maps and Atlases are actively attempting to escape that fate with this sophomore album, which takes their experimental riffs in a more accessible direction. "No more remote and dark years," sings the frontman Dave Davison on the track of the same name, as if describing his own career. The record begins in a slightly obtuse fashion with Old & Gray's patchwork beats, looped vocals and startlingly intense coda, but a segue into the funky pop of Fever lifts the spirits, followed by Winter's catchy chord changes.

Sometimes the band veer too far from their experimental origins, such as on the straightforward guitar rock of Vampires, and the best bits are surprisingly danceable. Silver Self, Be Three Years Old and Bugs all marry African-style rhythms and quirky melodies, as if Diplo had produced Paul Simon's Graceland.

Davison's distinctively reedy voice may deter the masses, but moments of lyrical beauty await those fortunate enough to discover this fine band, such as his broken-hearted lament in Old & Gray: "Our writing on the wall is under three coats of paint, in an apartment we don't live in anymore." Chin up, Dave. The remote and dark years may soon be over.