Cruise control

When you're an instrumental band, there are some sizable obstacles to overcome to warrant notoriety and critical appeal. Even if you've got the chops to back up the unspoken approach, you run the risk of losing people's attention without words to convey a message. And then there's the tendency to become so rapt in avant-garde, introspective musical meanderings that you end up alienating listeners who aren't musicians.

To be a cut above the rest, a band needs to possess a genuine chemistry as well as a melodic intuition that leaves the audience with something to hum after listening to the CD or a live show. Maserati is that band.

Participating in the voiceless conversation that bands such as Don Caballero, Tortoise and Macha have started, Maserati carved out its niche in a relatively short time. Hailing from the college-rock vortex of Athens, Ga., the quartet, formed in early 2001, comprises Coley Dennis (guitar), Steve Scarborough (bass), Phil Horan (drums) and Matt Cherry (guitar). A short time later, Maserati recorded and self-released fledgling effort "37:29:24," a moody mélange of atmospheric tempo shifts and textured dynamics that got the attention of Athens-based indie label Kindercore. In 2002, with a tidy record deal in hand, Maserati recorded its latest, "The Language of Cities," at Andy Baker's Chase Park Studios, continuing the band's exploration of expansive, sometimes explosive soundscapes and garnering even more street cred in the well-worn instrumental genre.

"It's always challenging to come up with material and not repeat ourselves," says Dennis, pointing to the redundancy that bogs down most bands of this ilk. "But it's also cool that we all come from different musical backgrounds because there's different ideas to draw from: Phil's got sort of a punk background; Steve comes from a jazz background." This fortunate overlapping of styles augments Maserati's spacey sound, filling in the rough edges with a warmth not usually found in a genre normally bathed in tension and sterility.

And while its true that Maserati is an instrumental band, the group doesn't approach its songwriting from a strict no-vocal standpoint. "We find a lot of inspiration from bands we play with `on tour`, which are usually bands with vocals. I guess I've never thought about us being in `the instrumental` genre. We just do what we do and that's what comes out," says Dennis. "We've never found room for singing because the music speaks for itself." And it shows on "Language," with eight tracks that illustrate a maturing band more concerned with fluidity and melody than riff-mongering and showmanship. But Dennis also admits that the audience has to have a fairly long attention span to appreciate the group's lengthy excursions. As he says: "You have to use your intelligence to appreciate our music."

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