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Mapmaker

Parts & Labor

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Album Review

2007 sees Parts & Labor — Dan Friel, B.J. Warshaw and Christopher R. Weingarten — moving back toward more song oriented material. While their brash, noisy amalgam of multiple instruments, electronics and heavy percussion is still part and parcel of their sound, the melodic approach that the group adopted on their last Jagjaguwar release Stay Afraid in April of 2006 has been refined here to include more hooks, more structure, and yes, more noise. From the slamming "Fractured Skies" that opens the set, Parts & Labor indulge freely the blastbeat percussion-heavy attack of heavy metal while maintaining an indie rock approach toward songcraft. The tune is virtually an anthem. Harmonic invention and shifting parts where instruments come and go all under the guise of Weingarten's skin attack befits a much more guitar heavy band, but with the skittering electronics winding their way through every aspect of their compositional method — check "Vision of Repair," "New Crimes" and "Ghosts Will Burn" — the band rely on strong vocal performances to make these songs find their way into the ears of the listener in a friendly and memorable manner. For all their chaos, one can hum any song on this record. It stands to reason that with Battles moving toward prog with their own brand of gleeful yet aggressive insanity, Parts & Labor move toward the ethos of punk while displaying the same sonic sophistication. Even in places where experimentation reigns supreme as it does on "Unexplosions," the notion of moving ever forward to some sort of closure, resolution, or uplifting conclusion never wavers. The set closes with the completely out to lunch "Knives and Pencils," where seemingly chanted vocals float through a soundscape of punishing tom toms and snares, a cheesy synthesizer, and an electro-acoustic tornado blows through the middle of the track like a Scottish marching troupe of pipers. Four albums in, Parts & Labor assemble all the parts and come up with something utterly "new" and different in rock. How often can you say that?

Mapmaker, Parts & Labor
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