Review Summary: A masterful new take on a previously limited fusion.
It's hard not to be at least a little bit awed by the few artists that manage to properly and interestingly fuse elements of genres that have always sort of hid behind their white picket fences from one another. I don't think that jazz and rock are so necessarily segregated and more and more bands have been making it apparent that they make good bedfellows recently, but the overall crop of bands that do so remains a limited group. The number that utilize a horns section and a violinist probably number only New Jersey's Thank You Scientist.
Blending everything from Latin melodies and swing beats to metal-based guitar technicality that rivals that of nearly any contemporary, on paper
, Maps of Nonexistent Places
sounds like a mess waiting to happen or at the very least, something painfully inaccessible to casual listeners. Yet the careful and obviously deliberate arranging on the album creates a flow that's not only interesting, but impressive, catchy, and downright fun. No track does a better job of typifying what the entire album is about than "Blood on the Radio," a nine minute song that manages to feel short
while burning through ska-based riffs, an upbeat groove from south of the border, and solos from strings and brass alike. Yet it's the solid rock foundation that keeps "Blood on the Radio" and Maps
as a whole tight. Though it deviates frequently on a journey that always seems to bear south through the jazz and swing sounds of New Orleans down to the rapid trumpeting of Mexico and Latin America back on up, the core fundamentals of the group keep things beautifully unified no matter the direction or speed of the journey.
While it's easy to downplay these matters of fusion as something we've seen before in bands like King Crimson or Cynic, the sound presented on Maps of Nonexistent Places
sounds more like a familiar chord played in a new inversion - a modern rock sound that plays with classic jazz and Latin roots in an organic and effective manner. There's a quality of immediate recognition to the sounds on display, but also a sense of newness and individuality that signals the brain that though the concepts are familiar, the combinations and permutations feel refreshingly new and enjoyable. Perhaps Salvatore Marrano's high register comes across as the coziest aspect of the music, drawing immediate similarities to Circa Survive's Anthony Green and causing a bit of preparatory effect for the experimentation contained within by association.
Though, in all honesty, it's quite hard to say that there's any sort of jarring moment on Maps of Nonexistent Places
. For all of the mashing of guitar mastercraft ("My Famed Disappearing Act"), instrumental brass-string exchanges ("Suspicious Waveforms"), and bass of the most classically jazzy degree (pretty much every track), everything is buttery smooth. To say that's exceptional is a massive understatement, and to say there's very little Thank You Scientist can do to improve is an absolute credit to the musicianship of this spectacular septet and every bit indicative that they should be an absolute pleasure to observe as they develop over time. Get in on the ground floor now or kick yourself later.
"Blood on the Radio"
"My Famed Disappearing Act"
"A Salesman's Guide to Non-Existence"