Maps & Atlases – Perch Patchwork

Release Date 04/10/2010 (FatCat Records)

By Chris Gilliver

Maps & Atlases formed in 2004 and six years later they’re releasing their debut album. What the hell have they been doing all this time? I’ll tell you using metaphors and similes. They’ve been hungrily eating and digesting the works of many of the finest alternative artists of the last 10 years, and assimilating them into their repertoire.

The result is something like what happens to those dogs in ‘The Thing’ when the parasitic extraterrestrial host reveals itself – a bloody mess of entrails, legs, heads and tentacles. Look! Here on opening track ‘Will’ is a half digested arm that once belonged to Múm or Sigur Ros. And there is the heart of The Animal Collective’s ‘In The Flowers’, manifesting itself in the no less explosive and expansive drum break on ‘Charm’. Here on title track ‘Perch Patchwork’ are the floral orchestral embellishments from Joanna Newsom’s last two albums. And despite the fact it’s all oddly and messily juxtaposed like a homemade collection of jams and outtakes, Perch Patchwork is a fascinating listen. Like the gravitational force exerted by dark matter, there’s something invisible here that holds this morass together.

It is partly due to Dave Davison’s often confessional lyrics – “I don’t think there’s a sound I hate more than the sound of your voice when you say that you don’t love me anymore” he sing on the boppingly, charming ‘Charm’ – and his vocals which sound a lot like one of TV on the Radio’s vocalists. I’m not sure which one. But mainly it’s that strange alchemy that forms like an apparition when four musicians combine, and wilfully try to eschew conventional song writing forms and structures. Musical independence of mind is nearly always captivating.

And so, to jettison metaphors finally, we have waited a long long time for Perch Patchwork. But it is worth the wait, and though a little hit and miss, it’s a joyfully chaotic ride through the last ten years of alternative music.

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