There is no easy way to define Charts and Maps' sound. My gut reaction is to throw the whole thing under 'math rock,' but that term alone ignores all of the other aspects of their sound. Their proper debut album, Dead Horse, features a diverse array of influences from jazz, progressive music, and even jam bands. Needless to say, it's extremely hard to classify what is going on. Of course, what do labels matter when the music is superb?
One thing for certain is that the album itself is incredibly juicy. The riffs are slick, the solos are raw yet polished, the rhythms are hypnotic, and the entire album just sounds beautiful from beginning to end. The entire quintet sounds like equal parts Pat Metheny and Joe Satriani, going from light, jazzy doodles to groovy shredding without batting an eye. There are even heavy elements of funk rock with "Hypnotiq American Firework". What I appreciate most about this album, however, is how Mike Allison's saxophone parts don't sound forced; they sound incredibly at home with the rest of the music rather than standing out like sore thumbs. From the opening saxophone blares of "Take Me Back to Highland Park" to the ending notes of the title track, the woodwinds blend in so beautifully that you'll scarcely notice anything is unusual.
Though the first track is a measly four and a half minutes long, literally no other track on this album is less than seven minutes in length. What's most impressive about this is that the seemingly endless jamming doesn't seem to ever grow boring. Even on the eleven-minute excursion that is "In the Town of Machine", the piece just seems to keep going without ever losing its steam; the song just keeps building, the sounds just keep swelling, and the band just keeps pulling more and more tasty melodies out of nowhere, climaxing with an absolutely fabulous guitar solo. "Pearl Divers of the Arabian Peninsula", another strong track on the album, also features arrestingly beautiful saxophone and guitar jams.
Dead Horse, in short, is everything you could ask for in an album and more. Even though the band are still a little fettered to their debut EP (heck, two of the best tracks on this album are actually rewrites from Enemies of C. Frias), no one can deny that this quintet is producing incredibly high-quality music. The musicianship is fantastic, the songs are wonderful, and best of all, since it was released by Lost Children, it's free to download, too. It's an incredibly confusing album, sure, but it's still immensely enjoyable. You can nab it by a pay-what-you-want system at http://lostchildren.bandcamp.com/album/dead-horse
8.0 / 10
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