Review: Maps – Turning The Mind

From nowhere to a Mercury Music Prize nomination, Northampton’s James Chapman was hailed as a musical visionary; embracing the values of dreampop and fusing them with the likes of Spiritualized. That was two years ago and ‘Turning The Mind’ arrives with little fanfare but could it be the record which builds on the promise and takes him to the next plateau?

 The title track takes a while to get going but eventually that familiar dreampop carousel takes hold. Next we have ‘I Dream Of Crystal’, which certainly has a celestial chorus and the fact that it has been featured on Sky Sports coverage is a suggestion of Chapman’s growing popularity. Later on, Chapman gives a rare glimpse of his darker side with the urgent, almost threatening swirl of ‘Nothing’ and ‘Chemeleon’, meanwhile, is Chapman in his element as he makes the best use of Numan-esque synth effects and a beautifuly breezy pay-off on the chorus.

However, much like ‘We Can Create’, there’s a noticeable sag in quality towards the middle of the record; Chapman’s fairly undistinguished vocals don’t really help matters either. Furthermore, there appears to be a disconcerting move towards the dancefloor, exemplified by ‘Let Go Of The Fear’, which sounds like a Faithless song and then ‘Love Will Come’; both tracks are decent enough genre examples and would probably sound great in clubs but they seem like the kind of soulless fare you’d expect to hear from anonymous DJs. Similarly the chorus to ‘Everything Is Shattering’ sounds like a dancier (and inferior) version of Prefab Sprout’s ‘I Love Music’.

After describing ‘We Can Create’ as a “delightfully unique” album it’s hard to pay a similar compliment to ‘Turning The Mind’. Instead, Chapman seems to have opted for a commercial approach, which will possibly lead to more fans (and who can blame him for that?) but it lacks the emotional depth of its predecessor and sometimes ends up emulating shallow shoegazers like M83. Yet for all its flaws, ‘Turning The Mind’ is a perfectly serviceable record, just don’t expect to be moved.

Web Sites:
Maps Blog
Maps MySpace

Further Listening:
Secret Machines, Cajita, ReCoup, M83

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