It might take a mathematical genius to calculate the number of recycling musicians making up the Missoula-Portland-Seattle rock triangle. For instance, Portland’s Book of Maps (pictured) used to be Missoula’s own One Point Plan. And One Point Plan consisted of Chris Baumann, formerly of The Pleasure (among others), and Chris Pickolick, who also sweated it with Firehawk and the Paul Bunyan Band. Add to this formula another ex-member of The Pleasure, Jamie Henkensiefken, now the sole member of the eponymous Seattle band Henkensiefken. What do you have? Only the smallest scrap of a calculus that spans time, space and guitar. The mind reels.
But this isn’t math class, it’s “math rock.” The term refers to bands that are unpredictable, often experimenting with peculiar tempos and rhythms while maintaining a hard and aggressive rock edge. In this case, it adds up to the powerful Wäntage USA Western Invasion show, a homecoming for Book of Maps and Henkensiefken.
The thing to remember about Book of Maps is that math rock accounts for only a sliver of their rock constitution. The delight is in the contrast between serious prog tempos and entertaining titles. Pickolick and Baumann manage to evoke Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye while playing songs with titles like “Bastards of the Universe” and “Exhibit A Burns a Hole in the Sky with Her Death Stare.” The funkiness of “1989” illustrates how Book of Maps’ particular instrumental reckoning avoids pompous self-indulgence—they’re enjoyable and smart.
For Henkensiefken, math rock isn’t so much about the chord arrangements. Her experiments have been more about bandmates, bouncing through several groups before becoming a solo rock entity. From that she builds a multitude of sounds using secondary guitar lines and two amps placed in stereo. The effect is lo-fi and engaging. Her voice is hauntingly pretty, and her guitar is roughly melodic. Henkensiefken’s 2004 debut CD, A Familiar Assortment of Demons and Dreams, includes “Orange Aurora Sky” with the apt line: “A battle axe and a bunch of maps/there ain’t a time that I don’t have my own back.”
The numerically challenged need not worry too much about figuring out all the math rock. Book of Maps and Henkensiefken promise interesting composition without the chore of long division.
Book of Maps and Henkensiefken are part of the Wäntage USA Western Invasion Friday, March 25, at the Union Hall. The show starts at 8 PM.