Maps & Atlases

In a musical landscape pitted with pop stars and pigeonholes, Maps & Atlases defy easy categorization, choosing to walk their own incomparable path. Beware and Be Grateful builds upon the Chicago-based band’s acclaimed Barsuk Records debut, Perch Patchwork, melding their trademark experimentalism with a more direct – though no less beguiling – songcraft. The new album abounds with invention, spanning hymnal harmonies, percolating rhythms, even, in the case of centerpiece track “Silver Self,” a full-on guitar solo. Songs like “Remote and Dark Years” and “Winter” are gloriously liquid and lyrical, channeling M&A’s maximalist creativity into a truly inviting brand of boundary-busting, asymmetrical pop.

“We wanted there to be more ins,” says guitarist/vocalist Dave Davison. “We wanted it to be really engaging. We wanted it to be fun, in addition to being different.”

Guitarist Erin Elders adds, “we’ve always been interested in writing songs that people can walk away from with some sort of emotional connection, while still trying to explore our own musical obsessions and the weird ideas we want to pursue.”

Since their formation in 2004, Maps & Atlases – that is, Davison, Elders, bassist Shiraz Dada, and drummer Chris Hainey – have captured the indie imagination with polyrhythmic beats, elaborate melodies, and post-rock ingenuity. Arriving on the heels of two highly rated EPs, 2010’s Perch Patchwork proved both a popular and artistic breakthrough, earning the devotion of an increasingly fervent fanbase as well as reams of critical applause. “Maps & Atlases make technical virtuosity fun,” declared Filter, while American Songwriter praised the album as a “beautifully oddball symphony…equal parts lo-fi and hi-tech.”

M&A spent much of 2010 and ’11 on the road, honing their kinetic time signatures and inventive energy both as headliners and alongside such artists as RX Bandits, CircaSurvive, Cults, and Portugal. The Man. Demos were recorded between tours with Perch Patchwork producer Jason Cupp (Good Old War, Nurses), paving the way for sessions at Omaha’s ARC Studios – the band’s first time working in a conventional recording facility, having previously recorded largely in home studios and other “places where you have unlimited time, without having to pay for it,” according to Davison.

In preparation, Maps & Atlases united to explore arrangement ideas and tweak material at Davison’s parents’ house in suburban Lake County, Indiana. Much of their work on arrangements was conducted on a number of what Davison describes as “weird little battery-powered keyboards” that he and Cupp had purchased at a Chicago farmer’s market. The addition of keyboards into Maps & Atlases’ creative arsenal served as a seismic aesthetic shift for a band that had always shied away from even the simplest guitar pedals.

“When we first started as a band, we were a lot more adamant about the music being this very organic thing,” Elders says. “But slowly we’ve grown to want to experiment with

texture, and keyboards were a great way to do that. They also helped guide the songs, they kept things fresh. It’s good to step out of your comfort zone and try new things.”

Though most of the keyboards’ “strange sounds” were replaced by guitars on the final recording, they unlocked a new musical mindset in Maps & Atlases, opening the band to alternatives to their customarily naturalistic approach. At ARC, they toyed with fresh textural elements, recording the sound of light bulbs being smashed or of a microphone placed in a box and then rolled down a flight of stairs.

“We threw down as many ideas as we possibly could,” Elders says, “as fast as we could.”

The band broke the recording sessions into weeklong chunks, taking time away to evaluate their work periodically. Elders describes the band’s nurturing approach towards the material as “a long layering/unlayering process. By doing it in installments, we were able to let the songs unfold.”

The recordings included pieces that been fermenting throughout M&A’s lifetime, with songs like “Old Ash” and the extraordinary “Remote And Dark Years” now utterly transformed by the band’s forward momentum and Davison’s increasingly potent songwriting skills.

Whereas prior songs featured a somewhat fragmented, refracted lyricism, Davison has begun tackling the big existential questions in more forthright fashion.

“It’s just thinking about meaning,” he says, “a sort of back-and-forth between ideas and emotion versus just existing in the world.”

That core metaphysical to-and-fro is manifested by the album’s widescreen spatial dynamics, what Elders describes as “an open-endedness.” Free to let their ideas run wild, Maps & Atlases truly let fly: Beware and Be Grateful is a breathtaking panopticon of incantatory choral vocals, seesawing grooves, and of course, their inimitable six string complexity, all of which are pushed farther that the band had ever anticipated.

“There are things on this album that I never thought it would be possible for us to do when we first started,” Davison says, adding wryly, “For one thing, my 20-year- old self would not have been super-pumped-up about me playing a guitar solo on anything.”

With its blend of avant garde audacity and pop craftsmanship, Beware and Be Grateful stands firmly in the great art rock tradition, a model synthesis of novelty and tradition, of listen ability and invention. Maps & Atlases have crafted a collection of resplendently human music, its intricate dynamics wholly matched by ornate wells of deep emotion.

“We’re all quietly excited,” Elders says. make and have been striving to make.

“For us, this is the record we’ve always wanted to We’re very proud of it.”

Shiraz Dada, bass * Dave Davison, guitar/vocals * Erin Elders, guitar * Chris Hainey, drums

“Lately I’ve been trying to remember all the things that got me here,” sings Young Man’s Colin Caulfield on “Waterford,” one of many captivating and beautiful tracks on his latest album, Beyond Was All Around Me, which features the 23-year-old singer-songwriter’s most sophisticated, gorgeous and memorable collection of songs yet. Due out April 9, Beyond Was All Around Me is the final installment in the Young Man album trilogy—a song cycle about youth and growing up that Caulfield first conceived in his Chicago dorm room in 2009. After this LP, Caulfield will retire the name Young Man and pursue other musical endeavors.

“Beyond Was All Around Me is the culmination of the entire project,” he says. “I learned a lot of things throughout the writing of this entire project, not only about my experience coming into adulthood but also my experience of being a songwriter.” Though a continuation of the themes on Young Man releases so far, the new album in particular is “centered around this idea that in order to move on and progress in your life, you have to move past or abandon certain things whether that’s childhood itself or a particular relationship. I still wanted it to be a concept album, but I also wanted for it to stand alone, even if you don’t know the back story.”

Caulfield’s music has been praised for it’s “cinematic quality” (NYLON) and his songwriting for being “full of the gentle lyricism and lush, spine-shivering atmospherics” (My Old Kentucky Blog). Fans of 2012’s Vol.1, Caulfield’s first studio album with a full band, called the collection “instrumental poetry with lyrics caressing the edges, in echoes of reverb, psychedelic trips, and meandering wonder” (The Big Takeover) and applauded its “seriously well-crafted shifts between proggy meanderings and pop hooks” (Filter).

Recorded over the course of a month in early 2012 at Brooklyn’s Rare Book Room Studios, Beyond Was All Around Me was produced, engineered and mixed by Nicolas Vernhes, whose albums with Fiery Furnaces, Deerhunter and Dirty Projectors were a big part of what attracted the band to working with him. Caulfield, guitarist Emmett Conway, bassist Joe Bailey, synth player Jeff Graupner and new drummer Darien Williams subletted an apartment within walking distance of the studio in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn. Caulfield says that living in one space helped them achieve a creative synchronicity they weren’t able to achieve on the previous LP, which had been recorded at home in Chicago. Williams, their new drummer, was only nineteen during sessions for Beyond, so instead of trying in vain to get him into bars when they had time at night they would hang out at home listening to mixes and coming up with different ideas to implement the next day. “Being able to all be in the same place and really live the recording experience was so important for this album,” Caulfield says. “It felt much more organic than recording the last album because of that.”

Another major difference: rather than tracking parts separately, they tried to record as much of the album live as possible, generally laying down a song a day. “We were all always there and available to give an opinion about how things could work better,” says Caulfield. “It was a completely different experience. And we’re really indebted to Nicolas for spurring creativity and having the sense of timing to know when to come into the room and say, ‘Maybe you should try it this way.’”

Though the band went into the studio with some fairly specific ideas for how Beyond should go, those ideas were completely malleable once the five musicians and Vernhes were in the room together. The album encompasses many of the touchstone Young Man sounds—folk, psych, prog, baroque—but applies them to the strongest collection of songs Caulfield has written yet. “I was trying to write songs that were cohesive structurally, in terms of pop standards,” he says, “but also wanted to demonstrate respect and belief in the power of selective indulgence, like at the end of ‘In Time’ or ‘School,’ where the song just goes off and it’s almost exhausting by the end. I still think that’s cool.” He laughs a little. “This album might be the last time I do that for awhile. But I think we did it really well here.”

Mylets, the nom-de-tune of teenage guitar prodigy Henry Kohen, announce the forthcoming release of a collection of songs remixed and remastered from three previous EPs. Retcon marks Mylets' debut release on Sargent House and serves as a precursor to the full length debut currently in the works and planned for release later this year.

The vinyl edition of Retcon features 10-songs and includes a full download with three bonus tracks featuring the audio from his live Sargent House Glassroom Sessions. Videos of those live sessions can be seen by clicking the links below

Retcon will be available everywhere digitally on May 7, 2013 and on Vinyl LP on June 25, 2013 via Sargent House.

$13.00 - $15.00

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Maps & Atlases with Young Man, Mylets

Thursday, May 2 · 8:30 PM at The Echo