How is an artist that I’ve been banging on about for the best part of two years getting featured in FUTUREMUSIC? Firstly, there’s a quite staggeringly wonderful new album just around the corner and secondly, James Chapman, he who is Maps, has maintained a pretty thorough internet presence during the recording of the new record, engaging listeners in new and really rather splendid ways.
For the uninitiated, and there really is no excuse, Maps’ debut album, ‘We Can Create’, was one of the highlights of 2007 combining euphoric electronica with heartfelt and slightly-whispered anti-vocals; less sung, more discreetly conveyed as if trying not to wake a sleeping child in the next room. Despite being the result of one man piddling about with technology in his Northamptonshire bedroom, the music sounds absolutely huge. Although hints of other whispery chillout types such as Spiritualized and early Mercury Rev pop through at times, it still feels like nothing else you’ve ever heard. A record guaranteed to put a smile on your face and one that I know inside out, an ever rarer accolade in these days of such easy access to so much music.
The new album, ‘Turning The Mind’, is out on September 28th and features everything that made the first record great only a wee bit larger and with a dollop more ambition. Plus, there’s a few faster ones, though not quite in the mould of recent single, ‘Let Go Of The Fear’, which sounds great in the midst of all of the other wonderful tracks but is hardly representative of what to expect. A far clearer idea can be gained by listening to new single, ‘I Dream Of Crystal’ on the Myspace page. The best, however, is still to come. Album tracks like ‘Die Happy, Die Smiling’, ‘Love Will Come’ and ‘Papercuts’ are some of the most naggingly insistent things he’s ever done and, to paraphrase petite Australian pop-monger Minogue, I can’t get them out of my head. I won’t bang on about the record too much as I know how annoying it is to be told something’s amazing when you can’t actually hear it yet, but suffice to say that the 9 I gave it for my review was entirely deserved. Will keep you up to date with new tracks appearing on assorted Maps pages over the coming weeks.
In the run up to this album’s release, James has provided loyal fans with some utterly bizarre but thoroughly charming video diaries through the medium of Ver Tube. They’re all still available here. I don’t think there’s much point attempting to pretend that he is entirely without chemical assistance for most of his appearances in those clips. Even weirder – no, seriously – is the latest video update which has instead appeared on the Myspace page, including a mildly blinged-up James miming to Eminem. While I’m well aware that this isn’t quite the same as some of the internet based promotion some of the other acts featured this week have undertaken, the stark honesty and genuine love which James seems to offer up to his fans is all too rare these days. You don’t get the impression that this bloke could ever really be part of a corporate machine (even though he pretty much is.) He keeps the musical experience personal. This is something he’s developed over on the MapsMusic site, from which you can download his regular series of mixtapes bafflingly entitled ‘The Rules Of Baseball’. Largely consisting of stuff you’ve never heard of, these mixes offer a reasonable clear idea of how James Chapman likes his music and also gives some pointers as to how the Maps sound is what it is. All free, all good fun and all rather more lovely than incessant corporate emails, texts and facebook updates reminding you that some mediocre chump has a new album out.