I don’t know much about this LA combo, but its recently released eponymous debut is one of the year’s best straight-up rock albums. Bearing a vague resemblance to their labelmates and neighbors Acetone–whose striking debut, Cindy, remains one of 1993’s best-kept secrets–they craft immaculate, often gentle melodies, setting the hushed, dreamy vocals of Ed Ruscha amid swinging rhythms and artful, psychedelic guitar counterpoint and creating an ambience that can jump from calm to manic in seconds. But where Acetone favor big resolutions and big chunks of solo action, Maids of Gravity exercise gorgeous restraint. On “Introverted Skies”–a catchy, Eastern-sounding melody placed lovingly inside an astounding mesh of shifting cross rhythms–they reveal a distinct Can influence, but manage to keep a tight rein on music that could easily become a prog-rock nightmare. The languid sprawl of “A Sad One” factors in a diffuse but definite Beach Boys influence and aptly demonstrates the band’s mastery of dramatic shifts in tempo, tone, and dynamics. Maids of Gravity understand the power of contrast. This is their Chicago debut. Friday, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Chris Cuffaro.