The problem with writing a review of a Thank You Scientist record is that their sound is nothing short of preposterous—full of contradictions like jazz and metal, funk and gypsy, prog and pop. Even so, I’m not sure there’s a record to come out in 2012 that I will enjoy more than the long-awaited first full-length from the NJ-based prodigies. Since hearing the band’s eye-opening debutEP, The Perils Of Time Travel, a year and a half ago, and absorbing as much as possible from their remarkable live performances, I’ve been craving new recorded material.
The result is Maps Of Non-Existent Places, an instant classic and one of the most dazzling albums I’ve heard in a while. Not only does TYS deftly cultivate a hodgepodge of influences into coherent musical fusion, they make it sound as effortless as peanut butter and celery—as if turning a hard rock riff into a funky ‘70s R&B vamp, like in “Feed The Horses,” is the most logical and natural of all transitions.
They’re all incredible tunes—I could probably write a few hundred words on each, but the one with the greatest potential to make you crash your car is “Blood On The Radio.” It starts in a flourish of synchronized runs that come together in a brief, pseudo gypsy jazz groove which then opens up to a thumping bass and drums verse. A guitar joins in to fill up the mix into the pre-chorus, a righteous chatter between riffs that snap, snarl and claw at each other before letting go into a pounding, syncopated chorus. The bridge goes through several solo sections as Thank You Scientist trips from discotheque to lounge and back with violin, sax and trumpet leads. A wizardly guitar solo brings the tune back around and to its climax.
After “Blood” comes “Absentee,” which is the one for the ladies. It finds TYS exploring tender vibes and a slow build to a big finish. “In The Company Of Worms” is an exotic sounding track amongst exotic sounding tracks with its use of Eastern scales and a fretless electric guitar. It’s the unison guitar/violin lead after the bridge, however, that truly floors as the most stupefying moment on the album.
Maps Of Non-Existent Places sounds like a dream you had; it’s unpredicted and unreal, it twists and turns like nothing you’ve ever experienced, though it’s not jarring. It makes no sense when you think about it, but in its throes you are completely immersed and you don’t want it to end. My favorite part is that it’s real.