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.”

Chicago’s Mutts are a keys/bass/drums trio who have been described as “Tom Waits fronting a garage band” by Time Out Magazine, and “what Queens Of The Stone Age would sound like if they ditched the guitars and started playing some dirty sounding organs” by Loud Loop Press.

But wait just one minute. On their 3rd LP – Object Permanence – the gritty trio sheds all amplification and goes clean. This is quite the risky move for a band that wasn’t easily categorized to begin with. Just when it seems that press and promoters are finally getting comfortable with the band’s sound (recently performing for Consequence of Sound, Daytrotter and booked at top-tier venues regionally alongside Murder by Death, Astronautalis and Maps & Atlases among others), Mutts is switching up their sound. This proves that they belong in an echelon with true artists; they are not a band concerned with categorization or making decisions based on career moves. Mutts was formed as a musical catharsis, and they’ve continued to make music for art’s sake over the past four years. And in typical playful Mutts fashion, their sonic switch-up Object Permanence, is a timeless-sounding response to the increasingly turbulent trend-shifts in music, pop culture and a class-divided society.

The album was recorded and mixed by Manny Sanchez at Chicago’s I.V. Lab Studio. It was released April 2nd, 2013 on 180g Gold-Translucent Vinyl, CD and digital download via Bandcamp, iTunes, Amazon and select indie shops around the Midwest. Mutts celebrated the release with a nearly sold out hometown show at Hideout Inn on April 4th, and appearances supporting their new LP on Daytrotter, WGN national TV, NPR’s Chicago affiliate WBEZ, Audio Tree Live, WXRT, and a two-month release tour stretching from Missouri to New York.

Object Permanence is also the fulfillment of a $10,000 Double-LP Kickstarter campaign, in which they recorded one acoustic and one amplified album.

Less than a year after releasing it’s debut LP, Mutts released their follow-up LP – Separation Anxiety – on August 2, 2012. The album received immediate praise for the beautiful split-color “Mending Wall” vinyl, available along with CD and name-your-price digital download at http://download.muttsmusic.com. Separation Anxiety made the CMJ Top Adds chart at #15 on August 21, and then became the second Mutts release to chart on the CMJ Top 200 in 2012, peaking at #72 over it’s six week run.

Separation Anxiety finds the band back with engineer Jon Alvin, who recorded the first three Mutts EPs in 2009-2010. Spending four days at The Chrome Attic in Crystal Lake, IL, the band tracked the 7 songs they had prepared and wrote 3 more on the spot.

The band says that “going into this session we challenged ourselves to try something new on each track.” Recording live with minimal overdubs, Mutts sound like veteran artists with a fresh set of tools. And on their fifth release, Maimone still finds new ground to break lyrically, addressing the anxiety involved in coming out to his parents, exclusion in modern Christianity and politics, and finding new angles for social commentary on class warfare, divisive media, and the age of instant gratification.

Mutts released their debut album, Pray for Rain, on December 13th, 2011. It earned a #8 spot on the CMJ Adds Chart, then charted for six consecutive weeks on the Top 200, peaking at #107 twice. It was named one of the top Chicago albums of 2011 by The Huffington Post and received praise in national magazines Alternative Press, The Big Takeover and The Deli. Mutts were also named Chicago’s Emerging Artist of 2011 by The Deli Magazine.

In their first year together Mutts independently put out 3 EPs: Pretty Pictures, We Float and The Tells of Parallels. Developing a unique, genre-bending sound, Mutts were already “poised to become one of Chicago’s top acts,” according to Loud Loop Press.

Outside of the studio, Mutts quickly fulfilled the buzz garnered by their recordings and Chicago music scene pedigree (as members of: Bailiff, Wax on Radio, Hush Sound, Empires, Suns, 8-Bit Tiger, Big Science, This is Cinema and Company of Thieves). By their second year together, the band was headlining at staple Chicago venues including The Empty Bottle, Double Door and Subterranean. Throughout 2011 they also hit the road often, while still holding down part-time jobs, bringing their unique sound throughout the Midwest and to the East Coast.

In 2012 their prolific studio work and constant “weekend warrior” touring culminated in several festival appearances, including Milwaukee’s Summerfest opening for Young the Giant, Chicago’s Do Division opening for Murder By Death, and opening for Maps and Atlases on the UW Terrace in Madison. An action-packed Summer, in turn, has kept the buzz going from Pray for Rain right into their new release on August 2nd. The first single, “Half Mile,” was featured on the CMJ and Chicago Mixtapes, “God, Country, Grave” was featured on the Lollapalooza episode of Local Anesthetic on Chicago’s WXRT 93.1FM, and the album is scheduled for national radio distribution August 21st.

Midas Bison

Midas Bison makes music of all varieties, often combining different traits in the same songs to accomplish a sort of sonic imagery. Each EP has a stylistic intention behind it and the tones within the piece are meant to express a theme or motif, whether it be the phenomena of the woods, the imagination of a child with a Gameboy, or the deepest depths of the Pacific. Each EP is meant to stand alone as it is, as a cohesive work that maintains a thematic atmosphere, regardless of genre or label. Midas has played a few shows in the Madison area with nationally touring artists such as Maps and Atlases, Chad Valley, Ghost Beach, Mutts and Kids and Explosions.

Midas also founded the What Son? Collective, a group of musicians and artists dedicated to positive promotion, serious artistic communities, and elevated experimental expression.

$12 adv - $14 dos

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Maps & Atlases with Mutts (solo), Midas Bison

Friday, June 21 · 9:30 PM at High Noon Saloon