It Hugs BackEdit this event
Stripped down from the usual effects-laden atmospherics of a traditional four-piece, Matthew Simms cuts a lonely figure as the sole representative of It Hugs Back this evening. Acoustic guitar in hand, his tranquil tones have a delicate air of sensuality that echo Nick Drake or Richard Thompson, making the likes of 'Soon' and 'Work Day'(buried amidst a wall of noise on recent long player Inside Your Guitar) become disparate slices of ambient folk, while the delightful 'Nowhere Near' (already a marked departure from It Hugs Back's standard fare even in the context of their regular line-up) works to perfection in such intimate surroundings. Sure, Simms' shy demeanour is perhaps not everyone's cup of tea, while the idea of a singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar opening for one of the country's prominent electro duos may not have been first choice for most people, but at times it proves a majestic masterstroke.
Despite levels of criticism to the contrary, Maps have, alongside the likes of Vitalic, undoubtedly created one of the best dance records of 2009. Perhaps it's down to the sudden shift of focus from "nu gaze" experimentalists to dance floor hedonists that's created such a stir among their previous suitors butTurning The Mind marked a severe departure from We Can Create in terms of structure, melody and lyricism which may have upset the applecart initially. Nevertheless, with the emphasis now switched firmly to machine-crafted dynamics, rather than workman-like vocals, guitar, bass and drums, there's a new dynamic to James Chapman's musical outlook - the realisation becoming abundantly clear just minutes into the set.
Now just a two-piece consisting of Chapman and August Jakobsen, the 2009 version of Maps is more at home within the sweaty confines of a late night club, and although they take to the stage at the relatively early time of 9pm, the vibe could almost be traded in for that of a midnight rave in Manchester's Warehouse Project or somewhere of a similar vein. It's certainly a buoyant affair, even down to Chapman's 'Beauty And The Beast' themed Halloween fancy dress extravaganza, while the tumultuous wave-upon-wave of intricately crafted synth break is reminiscent of such luminaries as 808 State or Autechre rather than Spacemen 3 or any of the artists from that era Maps have previously found themselves compared to.
The fact that guitars no longer have a place in Chapman's line of vision mean that old favourites 'Don't Fear' and 'To The Sky' are missing from the set, but the new found sense of optimism reared by Maps' transformation to that of a purely electro-based combo means that the We Can Create material that does feature, such as opener 'It Will Find You' and 'You Don't Know Her Name', are delivered with a venomous gusto that ensures each individual piece of the ten-song set feels like a separate event in its own right. For those still unconvinced by Turning The Mind, it would be churlish to suggest that the newer recordings make more sense in a live environment but 'Die Happy' (introduced as a song about murdering people) and 'I Dream Of Crystal' emit an anthem-like quality, while 'Let Go Of The Fear' and its teutonic rhythm makes like the Pet Shop Boys teaching English to the Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft.
An hour later, visibly moved by the reception for his new order, particularly after their last show in the city at Dot To Dot which divided punters and pundits alike, Chapman punches the air as if he'd just scored the winning goal in the World Cup final, radiant smiles gleaming across his and sidekick Jakobsen's faces. What's more, they've every right to feel pleased with themselves as this really was a triumphant exercise, dispelling the myth that dance music, when crafted as intelligently and expertly as this, can be every bit as euphoric in a live setting as watching any band you'd care to mention.
- Edwyn Collins, and Mute Records boss Daniel Miller to be honoured at AIM Independent Music Awards
- WIN! Exclusive Mute goodies!
- This Week's Singles: 11/01/10
- Maps, It Hugs Back at Bodega Social, Nottingham, Sat 31 Oct
- DiS meets Maps
- Maps - Turning the Mind
- Spotifriday #16 - This Week on DiS as a playlist
- This Week's Singles: 14/09/2009