Review: Maps – Turning the Mind

Maps, aka Brit James Chapman are (is?) back with another go around of sweet, slightly syrupy electro drone following on the heels of their (his) critically acclaimed 2007 Mute Records debut, the Mercury Prize nominated We Can Create. That album was among the most somnambulant albums of all time, but beautifully so.

Now Maps are back with something a little different. Does it pass the sniff test? Answer: sort of.

We Can Create was a piece of art. Beautifully constructed, lush, meaningful with lyrics that made you sit back and sort out what they meant. It was also sleepy. Like, comatose sleepy. One could appreciate the care that went into the album’s construction without, you know, actually “enjoying it” (full disclosure – Softsynth did…in the right mood).On Turning the Mind Chapman turns up the dial a little. Suddenly the synths connect rather than float. The drum machines actually percuss instead of tapping softly in the background. Suddenly there’s a little energy to accompany the beauty (although to be fair Softsynth expended more energy waking up this morning and stumbling to the shower than Chapman expressed on We Can Create so the bar is set a little low there). Maps have turned in retro synth with tracks like “Everything is Shattering” and the poppy “Everything Will Come” and even a dance track in “Let Go of the Fear”. It all seems slightly out of place on a Maps album. The highlight of the album is the title track which just purrs along, a lovely little pop song. Song for song this album is a more “enjoyable” experience than the last one. One doesn’t need to work so hard to enjoy listening to the album and while still not “fun” music, and every bit as thoughtful as their debut, it’s infinitely more accessible.

No matter what Chapman is someone who brings the sleepy. Maps are all about the drifting string effects and vocals delivered as though Chapman just rolled out of the sack. It’s still pretty, still thoughtful, still lyrically deep, and now just a little peppier. And yeah, sometimes still a little effort required in the listening but then someone’s gotta bring that to the party…

Watch: I Dream of Crystal

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