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Maps “Vicissitude” – Album Review

Mute Records (2013)

Named after the term for a typically unwelcome change of fortune, UK producer James Chapman’s third studio effort under the guise of Maps, Vicissitude, doesn’t exactly shy away from revelling in doom and gloom.

Resembling a cross between a self-hypnosis tape and a soundtrack to an eerie early 80s sci-fi flick, the follow-up to 2009’s Turning The Mind is underpinned by a sense of foreboding which suggests that the twenty-something is approaching something of an early mid-life crisis.

At first the ominous reflections on growing older and uncertain futures are mesmerising. Opener “A.M.A.” combines the ethereal synth-pop of early 90s comedown specialists The Beloved with the soaring post-rock melodies of Sigur Ros. “Built To Live” shows that Hurts now have some fierce competition when it comes to channelling the stadium synth-rock prime of Depeche Mode. Elsewhere, “You Will Find A Way” combines Chapman’s whispered melancholic tones with a gorgeously dreamy backdrop of spacey synths and church organs.

However, on the middle-section of Vicissitude, which is more in keeping with the shoegazey murmurs of Maps’ 2007 debut We Can Create, Chapman sadly allows his self-indulgent streak to get the better of him. “Nicholas” is little more than a three-note drone extended to six torturously long minutes; the title track is a similarly meandering affair which fails to build on its early break-beat promise; and the proggy electronica of “This Summer” and “Insignificant Others” suggest Chapman simply ran out of ideas towards the end of recording.

Closer “Adjusted To The Darkness,” a beautifully hushed lullaby which builds up to a gloriously cinematic crescendo, just about pulls the record back from its navel-gazing nadir. But overall, Vicissitude lacks both the creative spark and element of surprise that earned Maps’ debut a Mercury Prize nomination.

3 / 5 stars     

About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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Posted in: Album Reviews, Electronic Music