Chicago based Maps & Atlases are, to all extents and purposes, a genre-defying band. So much so, in fact, that I have decided to create the term Funk-Folk to begin to illustrate the kind of music they deliver. The band use a concoction of influences to piece together something altogether unique, each song bringing something new to the story of ‘Perch Patchwork’, the first LP from Maps & Atlases.
Opening song ‘Perch Patchwork’, highlights this to a tee, beginning with a low horn blow that gives way to a bright eyed string-based riff, accompanied by a playful vocal harmony that’s wonderfully realised, comparable to Bon Iver at his best. The melody on display, in a similar fashion to numerous melodies throughout the record, is infused with an enchanting polyphony and lively pluckings that are almost antique in their tranquillity. Slowly but surely, the group finish the introductory track with faint juxtaposition, slowing everything down into a warped Beach Boys harmony that holds something eerie in it’s heart.
Then comes ‘Was', an instrumental bit of folk rock feat that replicates 70s sentimentality with a tangible tinge of modern psychedelic pop. Such is the rambling wonderment phenomenon of Maps & Atlases, who lay their music out candidly on one long platter that stretches from one end of the musical spectrum to the other without breathing space. The record continues in this way, peaking and pausing for breath intermittently via a host of sounds and landscapes. ‘If This Is’ begins to echo the chart friendly folk of Mumford & Sons before a rollicking jerk takes over to break the sound up around the halfway mark.
They love to start heading quickly in one direction and then swerve all over the road, sweeping any preconceptions away with a sudden refrain, before finishing what they started somewhere a few hundred miles away, upside down. This collage of music is what will ultimately drive away many listeners who, upon a first or casual glance, could easily and quickly become disconcerted by the diverging styles. For those with more perseverance, there is something so captivating in the ever interesting little riffs and melodious utterances that pepper themselves generously for the duration of ‘Perch Patchwork’
However hackneyed it is to try and pun off of the name of an album or band, ‘Perch Patchwork’ seems to play into the music critic’s supposed sense of literary association. Maps & Atlases provide a true patchwork of voices, sounds and ideas, stretching themselves into this and that with a rare confidence and flair for such an attempt. Themes typical of various genres surface and submerge every now and again, from afro-pop on ‘Pigeon’ to math rock on ‘Carrying The Wet Wood’. In regards to the term Perch, I feel at a loss to attach the word with the music in any scholarly manner but I did somehow imagine a little fish swimming his way through this record (grinning the whole way, if fish can grin). Give it a go and grin along.
Words : Adam Parker