Music and mathematics are inextricably bound. In a certain sense, music is the physical expression of math, the rhythmic sound of numbers taken out of the theoretical world and made tangible. Maybe that’s why the genre term Math Rock is perfectly descriptive, as it denotes both the cerebral and visceral elements of the style. And in that context, it also succinctly frames the sound and fury of Maps & Atlases. The quartet plays with astonishing power and ephemeral delicacy, applying a graceful yet muscular precision to its broad and beautiful spectrum.
Maps & Atlases coalesced over a decade ago when guitarists Dave Davison and Erin Elders, bassist Shiraz Dada and drummer Chris Hainey were art students at Chicago’s Columbia College. Early on, the foursome was deeply steered by the intricacy of Don Caballero and the chaotic blister of Hella, but by the time the band hit the studio for its debut EP, 2006’s Tree, Swallows, Houses, Maps & Atlases was an amalgam of a greater range of inspirations, including Classic Rock and contemporary Pop. The band’s second EP, 2008’s You and Me and the Mountain, leavened its sound even more, throwing a decidedly Folk direction into the mix. All of Maps & Atlases’ gifts and influences came together in the brilliant sonic melting pot of 2010’s Perch Patchwork, its first full-length album and debut for Barsuk Records, which was characterized by fuller instrumentation and a more thoughtful approach to arrangements.
Two years later, Maps & Atlases dropped its excellent sophomore album, Beware and Be Grateful, a continuation of the sonic philosophies that had guided the band from the beginning. After a three-year span that found the band touring consistently, Elders announced on his Facebook page last April that he was amicably departing Maps & Atlases (he currently plays guitar with Wedding Dress). Now pared to a trio, and lacking its previous intricate guitar interplay, Maps & Atlases relies on Davison’s inventive six-string sculpting and the malleable rhythms of Dada and Hainey. The band’s website makes no mention of new material, but inspiration from a string of well-received shows could be lighting a fire under Maps & Atlases’ newly trimmed configuration. We can but hope.
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