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’. The overall feel is closer related to Pet Shop Boys than the Britpop-Klaxons of previous albums, with much more attention paid to a delicacy that can exist in his melodies once a moment is taken to actually understand the brittleness and restraint of them.
Vicissitude is on the whole a more measured listen, with a weary vagueness you can get lost in it, something you couldn’t with uptempo debut We Can Create. It’s a peaceful and faint record that relies on you hopelessly wondering into its mid-section and songs like ‘Left Behind’, and forgetting how you got there. It’s not all guns blazing by any means, rather it sits on the pallet and stirs, and that’s why it can so confidently find its own pace.
Then again I’m underselling the pop angle of it again. So much of this falls in line with what Sound Of Arrows do, and again what Tennant and Lowe create in their melancholy moments. ‘Built To Last’ is industrial chill-out caught somewhere between Ibizic euphoria and stoner house parties held by middle-aged couples, seamlessly colossal and elegant, and slightly sour.
For a lot of people though this will all come across a bit wet, not quite picking a corner in terms of mood, neither inflaming or calming, instead annoyingly poking you with a soft-ended brush from 20 feet away. It doesn’t quite commit to an emotion and will undoubtedly cause frustration or even boredom when listened to by many. For me though it’s a good way to unravel my brain and collapse into a workday without resorting to repetition or internet noise.
The lack of bang, where a band like The Whip for instance might do a good job with a similar collection of tracks, is well and truly compensated by its overall arc and atmosphere, its leisurely strides into a lazer-filled sunset proving climax enough without gimmicky drops and pandering. Hear a track on the fly and you won’t piss your pants, but taken as a full album it’s a sublime listen.
7Alex Lee Thomson's Score