Label: Barsuk Release date: 25/06/10 Link: Myspace MP3/Buy: Solid Ground l Amazon Maps and Atlases have been known for their intricate math rock stylings for a few years now, from the high paced avant garde EPs Bird Barnyard and Trees, Swallows, Houses to You and Me and The Mountain. The latter is where we see them take away the bits that made them hard to listen to and keep the really enjoyable bits to make an EP that, while still the Dirty Projectors side of art pop, was easier on the ear. It did, however, take out some of the stupid fun of hearing Dave Davison’s and Erin Elders competing to race up and down the frets and the insane talent of Shiraz Dada’s bass and Chris Hainey’s drums. On Perch Patchwork we see them grow even more. We lose some more of that zaniness but gain a band that have finally found out how to stop playing their instruments. For all the fun and beauty of Trees... and You and Me... it was felt that, when it came to song-writing, does this band understand how to pace songs, to develop songs and to build them up without everyone playing complicated poly-rhythms. This doubting of them is answered dexterously on Perch Patchwork, where they finally marry their esoteric nature with finely tuned music. The album opens with 'Will and The Charm', two fantastically crafted songs that show off the band’s new found ability to open up and let a more minimal approach take place before once again showing off the beauty of finger picking in 'Living Decorations'. As it has always been in the past is in this album, a lot of this is held together by Hainey’s astonishing prowess on the drum kit, and this continues into 'Solid Ground', one of the album’s highlights, where he keeps the pace with a jazz sounding beat while Davison’s unique voice carries the song high to the next level. Roaring through the short but sweet 'Is we get to Israli Caves', a song wrapped in summery sounds, a marching beat and some more beautiful guitar work and imagery from Davison, consistent more with You & Me era, but with harmonies and a baroque pop feel. This theme carries on with Banished Be Cavalier, another baroque tune, really showing off the fingertapping of Davison and Elders again, but in a way that sounds almost orchestral, before shifting time sequence to a waltz for a middle 8 and back into a beautiful art pop tune. We then get 'Carrying The Wet Wood', 'Pigeons' and 'If This Is', three perfectly pitched pop tunes before the rolling and gentle 'Was' that meanders it’s way round slowly and beautifully before landing on 'Perch Patchwork', a string supported chamber piece that opens into complex instrumentation and the most beautiful lyrics from Davison, another stunningly beautiful and perfect song. They are undeniably arty pop but in such a huge genre, all of these songs and movements draw no easy comparisons. There’s a Foals feel in there with all the fingerwork and complex rhythm, there’s Sufjan Stephens in there, especially his carefully composed tracks and The BQE and so on but no band where you can say “it sounds like this”. This album is completely new, having been dragged from their metal influences through the lightening and pop influences to create one of the most perfect albums I have heard in a long time. An absolutely stunning album. Photobucket