2850-mapsturning.jpg

Maps

Turning the Mind

Rating: 2.0/5.0

Label: Mute Records

Judging by the opening gospel-themed synthesizers and main-man James Chapman’s wounded voice, you’d think that the latest album from his one-man project, the electronic-indie Maps, would be much more of a Spiritualized rip-off than it is. Such assumptions are not always warranted, but unfortunately, Chapman mostly goes in the opposite direction; Turning the Mind is a largely listless record, overlong at just over 59 minutes.

There’s elements of both Spiritualized’s electronic gospel and the kind of weary narcotics-fetishism that British house has always embraced, but it’s all far too washed out by mid-’90s club clichés and synthesizers so overblown they sometimes sound a parody of themselves. It’s even more of a pity considered that underneath the thick strata of production and sometimes ridiculous lyrics, most of the songs have strong skeletons- Chapman is at the very least, an interesting songwriter who just happens not to be using his skills to a strength.

Both the eponymous opening track and the following “I Dream of Crystal” utilize soaring synthesizers and complex, programmed basslines to dramatic heights, but the overall effect is to drown out Chapman’s whispery, sometimes hesitant voice. Of course, given that there’s a certain tendency to couplets like “It ain’t always fun/ But at least you’ll be living, son/ So get the fuck off my case.” Even more cringeworthy is “Let Go Of The Fear;” loaded with every questionable choice made by danceclubs of the last decade, the title is repeated ad nauseam and intercut by spoken-word lyrics best exemplified by “Your cosmitive thoughts can guide you/ To an abyss that brings you truth.”

There are highlights to Turning the Mind, like “Valium in the Sunshine,” with its joyous, trembling keyboards, and “Die Happy, Die Smiling,” which sounds so stripped-down in contrast that it resembles the Neptunes. “Without You,” the closing track, also ends things on an instrumental, uplifting note, but can’t quite redeem the rest of the record’s overbearing choices. It’s always a shame when a songwriter of talent becomes buried underneath studio work, even if it’s in the name of electronica everywhere.

by Nathan Kamal
Bookmark and Share

  • Fleet Foxes: Shore

    After the dense and solemn Crack-Up, Robin Pecknold returns the Fleet Foxes to their roots…
  • Revisit: Idiocracy

    Just as Mike Judge’s lampooning of cubicle culture in Office Space feels like a relic fro…
  • Revisit: Donna Summer: The Wanderer

    A beginning, middle and end, this may not be Summer’s strongest album, but it contains all…
  • Revisit: Do the Right Thing

    Do the Right Thing saw a filmmaker at the extreme apex of his abilities, one who transform…
  • Oeuvre: Lynch: Inland Empire

    While it would not be fair to treat Inland Empire as a sort of culmination of Lynch’s care…
  • Owen: Other People’s Songs

    [xrr rating=2.25/5]For a guy who consistently sounds low-key, Mike Kinsella is quite busy.…
  • Fleet Foxes: Shore

    After the dense and solemn Crack-Up, Robin Pecknold returns the Fleet Foxes to their roots…
  • Revisit: Donna Summer: The Wanderer

    A beginning, middle and end, this may not be Summer’s strongest album, but it contains all…
  • Hen Ogledd: Free Humans

    This is a lot of trebly, upbeat music to stomach in one sitting, but Hen Ogledd has evolve…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Revisit: Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing saw a filmmaker at the extreme apex of his abilities, one who transform…