Maps And Atlases: 'Ted Zancha'

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The Chicago-based band Maps and Atlases. hide caption

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300 Maps and Atlases

The Chicago-based band Maps and Atlases.

The Chicago-based math-rock group Maps and Atlases can pack a lot into a three-minute song. The group's latest EP, You and Me and the Mountain, is a supercharged mix of odd meters, intertwining guitar runs and hurried, half-spoken vocals that pass so quickly, it's nearly impossible to follow with just one listen. It's a breathless rush of music that stays remarkably anchored without careening too far off course.

You and Me and the Mountain leaps out of the gate with its opening cut, "Witch." It's a perfect setup for the four short tracks that follow, with crisp, rapid-fire drum fills and a flurry of intricate guitar work. Singer Dave Davison sputters his curious observations in a woozy drone, making the already frenzied mix seem all the more disorienting.

Maps and Atlases' members refuse to let up on the rest of You and Me. "Daily News" is the only track to show any signs of restraint, if only because the band dials down the tempo a notch; the instrumentation is no less dense. The album closes with its richest and most interesting track, the spastic "Ted Zancha." The band adds what sounds like bells and marimbas to the algebraic rhythms, bringing to mind similar Chicago-based groups Tortoise and The Sea and Cake.

Bands such as Maps and Atlases have a virtuosity that can be both a blessing and a curse. On one level, the musicianship is so technically impressive that it's easy to simply marvel at the skill it takes to put it all together. But artists with this much talent can get caught up in their own greatness and forget that there's an audience out there. The four members of Maps and Atlases seem aware of this pitfall and avoid it with songs that, in spite of their frenetic pace, are almost hypnotic and lulling.

Maps and Atlases formed in 2004 with Shiraz Dada on bass, Chris Hainey on drums, Dave Davison on vocals and guitar and Erin Elders on guitar. They met while attending art school at Columbia College Chicago. In addition to You and Me and the Mountain, the band is in the process of reissuing its debut EP, Trees, Swallows; Houses.

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