If, like philosopher Alfred Korzybski, you know how far a map can stray from the territory, an entire atlas can be downright disorienting. Likewise, Atlas's debut CD, Ways You Once Thought Were Short Cuts, is a confusing series of creases, tears and folds in the cartography of post-punk. "Cutback," the disc's opener, strains toward four compass points at once -- melody, dissonance, discipline and chaos -- while scrambling down a dark, almost nihilistic path. The rest of the songs are just as disjointed, surveying the jagged terrain of early Cursive and Q and Not U as well as the craggy turf once claimed by Mission of Burma. Occasionally, singer/guitarist Alan Andrews's quaking vocals sound lost amid all the jumbled coordinates of riffs and rhythms, but an unerring sense of direction is maintained -- specifically, straight into the nerve endings of your inner ear. When Andrews wails the lines "Let's take a new direction/We'll head south/We'll find a new perspective/Turn it all around," you'll be ready to hand over the map and let Atlas navigate its own dizzy, reckless course to sonic oblivion.
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