Maps - Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Maps - Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2019-05-10
Maps - Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss
Maps - Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss

James Kenneth Chapman, aka Maps, has released a trio of lovely electronic albums, but it's been six years since his last release, Vicissitude. With Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss, he's gone big and bold, with a very different approach including adding a group of Belgium-based acoustic musicians to give the music a lot more body and organic warmth. There are still electronics mixed in, but they're dialed down quite a bit, giving the live music plenty of room to roam.

A lot of the tunes are semi-orchestral, thanks to a big assist from classical ensemble The Echo Collective, giving them a grand, joyous feeling. The opener, 'Surveil', gets right into the swing of things, weaving in a charming string section through its core, and blossoming out in all directions from that sweet bulb. 'Just Reflecting' is I think what is referred to as an instant classic, with what I can only describe as an iconic sound. The soaring strings and buoyant horns cause a bloom of agape deep within at the life-affirming happiness exuded from every instrument and voice. 'Sophia' is another fine example of the style: a big, proud love song bolstered by horns, strings, and a choir. It's an absolute highlight, both fresh and familiar, exciting and comforting. 'New Star', too, is uplifting and full of positive energy, with insistent brass carrying the vocals. You feel like you can do anything while listening to this song, like kick down a door, but in the most polite way possible. Maybe knock first?

Almost the entire set is upbeat and soothing. 'Both Sides' works more of an indie-folk style, similar to groups like Belle and Sebastian or Bauer, but sneakily brings in the extra instrumentation to add a sense of pleasant fullness. 'The Plans We Made' works the same territory, but with a bigger sound, thanks to more layers of instrumentation and vocals, and the sweetness turned up, making it the audio equivalent of relaxing in a pool overlooking a techno-urban landscape full of adventure.

There are moments of melancholy to be found as well, however. 'Howl Around' feels droopy and weighty, like a head that's too heavy to look up with. It just misses hitting pure transcendence in its back half, striving and reaching but coming back down to Earth too soon. Still, the finale is powerful and complex, with dizzying layers of sound swirling all around. 'She Sang to Me' is almost downbeat, in its way, with the choir at its most pensive, but still managing to add a sense of hopefulness in all the gloom. Even closer 'You Exist in Everything' (dig that psychedelic title by the way) starts out sad but rises above by its conclusion.

Chapman has a very distinctive, not quite reedy, but definitely breathy voice that he uses to great effect to give all his songs a lightness of being. He's moved off the electronic pasture some with this latest set, but his sensibilities remain the same, and he once again creates a feeling of being able to survive and thrive no matter what life throws at you. If you need a little hope, this is it.

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