Where Maps End is a story in chapters, a play-album, an adventure story of abstract travels around unknown lands and among dark characters. Throughout the album lyrics are the ocean, and music is the ship. Sounds cover a vast chart of colors and textures, and tempos establish the atmosphere of each discovered land across the trip. The use of drama on Where Maps Ends reminds me of Genesis in Peter Gabriel’s hands, or David Bowie in his trippy moments with Ziggy Stardust and Major Tom, though the harmonies are closer to Yes, and sometimes they recall pieces of The Beatles too, plus a certain psychedelic vibe that can remind you of Pink Floyd if you’d like it to. There are lots of chances to find similarities between Where Maps End and any of the classics of progressive rock, though the absence of grandiloquent symphonies prevents the confirmation that this is the land where the music of Rainbow Danger Club lives, but anyway it’s a helpful reference to explain in words Where Maps End.
Where Maps End uses drama as an extra instrument; pieces of the classic sounds of incidental music are all over the place. The use of effects on all instruments and voices–creating intimacy sometimes, or distance other times, or sepia colors–makes the listening comfortable. They all keep me interested in the next turn at each change of beat. The album is full of little sounds decorating the trip: fireworks, water, whales, frogs, birds and bees–I think there’s even the sound of a comb, plus the trumpet. I guess I don’t need to compare the trumpet with the flute of the earlier days of progressive rock. The main point here is that the management of sounds all along the album is clever and nice to hear. The arrangements and production are effective and stylish.
Where Maps End has many moments that can capture the heart of the listeners. The changes of tempo and so, weather, are nicely done. The first chapter “Invocation”, “Live on in Photographs” open straight to nostalgia, then “Drown the Creatures” and “Lego Sunrise” exhibit the courage of bringing an end to the beginning, forgetting the fear of creating expectations. The ship sets sail on “Neighbors on the Rooftop” and “Victoria and the Whales”, then the open sea comes with “To Where the Maps End”. “Passages” opens the conflict, throwing the tension to “Cloud City Welcomes You”, and then “Enduring Love”, so easy to enjoy with its “You put the blue into my sea, and you can see anyone you want, but baby it had better be only me” that makes me smile still after hearing the album a bazillion times. “We Can Be Friends”, ironically, releases the tension, especially when its distorted riffs are finally let loose at the end. “Moon Song” to me is a closing lullaby. Then “The Drunken Captain and The Firefly”, “Battleships”, and “Babies Grow on Trees” sound like an epilogue. Although I like the heavy rock on “Battleships”, the guttural voice is missing something, or maybe it’s just that I like open endings better, and every time I hear it I’m still on “Moon Song”. Though “Babies Grow on Trees” gives a perfect ending to the circular narrative of the album, it takes a bit of magic away from the trip.
Rainbow Danger Club is a band with many layers, and some of them are pretty joyful and funny when they play live–this is one thing that the album is missing. Or it’s backwards, and the fun and joy of their live shows are not part of what they actually mean to be as a band. However, I believe it is a characteristic that makes them attractive on stage, so the absence of those sparkles that Rainbow Danger Club produces on stage is noticeable. From a positive perspective this is a good way to make the live shows a different experience than the album, or it could be a challenge to solve on their next step. Anyway this is a matter of will and experiences, and it doesn’t take value from the album. Where Maps End is a gracious album, with a good story and captivating sounds, and it makes solid ground for Rainbow Danger Club to go on with the show.
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