Release Date: Jul 9, 2013
Record label: Mute
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Electro
Northampton's finest pop export since 1980s goths Bauhaus, James Chapman won many friends and a Mercury nomination with his 2007 electronic debut, We Can Create. However, he lost many of them with the slightly too druggy follow-up, Turning the Mind. Since then, his life sounds like it has unravelled. His third album follows a period of what he describes as "change (the meaning of 'vicissitude'), struggle and coming through it".
In this age of bleeps and bollocks, it’s nice to find an electronic act that I can relate to – somebody that fits my music collection and yet whose ether is purely soundscape. Maps, or James Chapman to his mum, has once again done just that with Vicissitude, creating an aura of noise that’s both as triumphantly pop as it is daydream nonsense, straddling the now narrow but vastly deep crevasse between bleep, and bulk. There’s always been a tranquility to Chapman’s vocals, and that smoother than silk texture is still very much at the center of this record, but where previously there might have been nods to an indie scene, this is now pure pop, the voice drifting in between delicate wafts of sonic fabric that comprise songs like ‘I Heard Them Say’.
Considering that there have been more than a few changes in James Chapman's music since We Can Create, the electro-shoegaze of his debut album as Maps, his third album, Vicissitude, is aptly named. Chapman ramped up his ambition on 2009's intricate, conceptual Turning the Mind, almost to the point where he seemed trapped in those songs' inner workings. Here, things are much more streamlined, whether on the sparkling single "A.M.A." -- which serves as a potent reminder that Chapman's music owes as much or more to New Order as it does to My Bloody Valentine -- or the title track's looping arrangement, which continues the more overtly electronic trend in his work.
James Chapman’s debut We Can Create gallantly lost out to the Klaxons’ Myths of the Near Future at the battle of the Mercury Music Prize. His follow up Turning the Mind was more sophisticated, more intelligent, but didn’t generate the same buzz even then. Enter Vicissitude, the third of Chapman’s albums whose titles uncannily showcase his ambitions for Maps.
Vicissitude is a $50 word, and, maybe, you might be asking yourself “...what does it mean”? According to the dictionary, it is “the quality or state of being changeable”; it also refers to “natural change or mutation visible in nature or in human affairs”. How about “a favorable or unfavorable event or situation that occurs by chance: a fluctuation of state or condition”? And it could also be “a difficulty or hardship attendant on a way of life, a career, or a course of action and usually beyond one’s control”. Meh, let’s settle on “alternating change” and call it a day.
Maps’ first album We Can Create was shortlisted for the 2007 Mercury Prize. Its follow-up, 2009’s Turning The Mind, was significantly less celebrated. It probably wasn’t the best time for Maps (the recording name of musician James Chapman) to take a four-year break but that’s exactly what happened and here, finally, is Vicissitude, his third album.
In an era obsessed with glitchiness, dubstep, and all things lo-fi, James Chapman's so-called “electrogaze” music is, in a word, estranged. Modern electronic music and its consumers are currently binging on anything that sounds like James Blake or SBTRKT, darkly produced R&B hybrids with which Chapman's aged, though nonetheless polished, pre-millennial IDM shares little in common. Since Turning the Mind, his work as Maps has been condemned to dwell in the meandering purgatory of passé electronica, which is perhaps why his third full-length release, Vicissitude, arrives with such little fanfare.
Maps, the musical guise of Northampton’s James Chapman, hasn’t quite been able to re-capture the magic and excitement that surrounded his self-recorded, Mercury nominated debut, ‘We Can Create’, back in 2007. And upon listening to ‘Vicissitude’, his third full-length effort, it seems tragically evident why there’s been a gradual decline in interest since then.Opener ‘A.M.A.’ sets the tone for what’s to come; arpeggiated synths, atmospheric textures and effects, softly song vocals drenched in cavernous reverb and echo. Sounds pleasant enough right? Well, it is.