Tag: shoegaze

Album review: Maps

MAPS Colours.Reflect.Time.Loss [Mute] James Chapman, aka Maps, is an East Northamptonshire songwriter, producer and remixer. He started his electronic shoegaze efforts back in 2004, and he was picked up by…

MAPS
Colours.Reflect.Time.Loss
[Mute]

James Chapman, aka Maps, is an East Northamptonshire songwriter, producer and remixer. He started his electronic shoegaze efforts back in 2004, and he was picked up by Mute Records. His 2007 debut album We Can Create was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. These basic facts are worth restating, as one suspects that most folk under 30 in Northants would probably not be au fait with his output. Which is understandable: he’s an outskirts type of guy after all, not a fame-hungry media whore.

Now on to his fourth album, Chapman has substantially rethought his usual working process [i.e. sitting in his bedroom, endlessly tinkering] and brought in a whole range of outside players, most notably Berlin’s Echo Collective, to help with strings and things. A more collaborative approach has bought its just rewards, as this is easily his most engaging work since that leftfield debut that took the Earls Barton boy on a quite remarkable journey around the world.

The album immediately brings to mind fellow Midlanders Spiritualized, mixing the ethereal psychedelic rushes he’s always conjured from his synths and guitars, but adding the warmth of brass and a drummer [Matt Kelly] who’s loud enough in the mix to push everything eternally onwards in propulsion. The sound is a natural progression of the previous album’s approach – it’s still unmistakably Maps, right from the breathless vocals of ‘Surveil’ that kicks things off. Maps has always been about miniature symphonic pop songs, but experimenting with the form. The songs are more suites, and Chapman rarely goes for the jugular. However ‘Both Sides’ here has enough accessibility to actually be a radio hit. ‘Howl Around’ is the sound of an animal trying to escape a cage, elegantly. ‘Wildfire’ captures a very specific emotional state that is both simultaneously euphoric and melancholic. You might need a lie down after hearing it.

Such heightened themes continue throughout, and unlike most modern albums there’s no flagging towards the end. ‘Just Reflecting’ is as huge as the buildings in the accompanying video [see below]. ‘She Sang To Me’ shows he can be more serene, sedate; bucolic even. Wait for the closing ‘You Exist In Everything’: with it’s sci-fi other-worldliness it could be the soundtrack to a peculiarly English documentary film on BBC Four. Certainly it’s splendour deserves quadraphonic speakers, not tinny smartphone devices.

Colours.Reflect.Time.Loss is as bold, grand, and wholly sparkling with ideas as you could hope for. It’s great to have him back.

Phil Moore

 

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New Music Friday: Oddity Island

Kettering’s woozy indie rockers Oddity Island formed in early 2017 and a year on have readied their debut single, ‘Finger Puppets’. New Boots spoke to Alex Gardner (vocals/ukulele) for the lowdown…

Kettering’s woozy indie rockers Oddity Island formed in early 2017 and a year on have readied their debut single, ‘Finger Puppets’. New Boots spoke to Alex Gardner (vocals/ukulele) for the lowdown on this song and more.

New Boots: How did you guys get together?
Alex Gardner: Well Will Bates [guitar] and I went to college and uni together and were apathetically pondering the idea of trying to make something at least resembling a band for years but never got anything really going. Then we started seeing Sam Draper [guitar] everywhere we went. He had a little bit more drive then me and will to get something started so we met up for a jam and that was that. Finding Paul Parry [drums] and Simon Game [bass] after that was just pretty organic. Paul being Sam’s brother and all and we just got our mate Simon and told him to learn bass… he did.

How would you describe your sound?
We are all in to psychy/shoegazey kinda stuff. I think that’s pretty evident in the music. But there is a massive folk influence on it too. Especially melodically. Then Paul pretends he is in a much heavier band and music comes out. I guess that question is hard to answer definitely; that’s probably a good thing.

What do you think are your main influences musically?
I kinda feel like I don’t know. Like I never really directly think of anyone in particular. It’s just a mess of stuff that’s been crammed in ours heads, right? I would say Neutral Milk Hotel or Beirut or something personally but the rest of the band would say something completely different

What are your main influences outside the world of music?
Nicolas Cage in Wicker Man.

This song seems very anti-religion. Is God deader than ever?
If we count it by his cultural relevance then probably yeah. Not exactly current is Our Kid God. I don’t think of the song as anti-religious though. But more anti Faith. Blind faith anyway. It’s more about being confused about why people need religion rather than hating religion. I mean religions in terms of history and culture is actually incredibly interesting. It’s just the whole ‘I believe in this because I do and that is all the proof I need’ kinda attitude that doesn’t sit well with me. But then again live and let live and I really do understand the comfort in it. I guess that would be nice.

What are your live shows like? Are you part of a music scene in Kettering, playing with like-minded bands?
Live we just try and put as much energy and possible in to it and try to have fun. We have a few slower songs that build up to burst of energy then back down….then back up. We don’t like to stay in the same place very long.

In terms of the scene we play with a lot of cool people round here. It’s a very talented town really, it just has a hard time showing it off nowadays. The scenes there but there’s little to rally around. Speaking of like-minded bands The Abrahams have helped us out a lot with gigs and stuff which we appreciate a lot. Check out there new album it wonderful.

What was the last album you bought?
Derevaun Seraun by Kiran Leonard

What has been your favourite band moment in the past year?
Going to Bournemouth to record. Me, Sam and Paul all slept in a car in the middle of November after going out. It was one of the coldest but one of the funniest nights I’ve ever had.

What plans do you have for 2018?
To gig as much and as far afield as we can. We are also gonna record a kinda live EP in the very near future.

You can find Oddity Island on Facebook and Twitter

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