Maps - Vicissitude

It all feels slightly cheap, fatigued, and a little bit colourless.

Label: Mute

Rating: 4

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. It would be great as background music, something you could put on during a polite dinner party, maybe when your grandparents come to visit. Unfortunately, when you give it your full attention, everything falls completely flat. The hooks aren’t quite good enough to tempt you into singing along. The drums aren’t hard-hitting enough to make you want to dance. It all feels slightly cheap, fatigued, and a little bit colourless.

No surprises are offered up. There are no dramatic highs or lows. In fact, it seems perfectly content to start at one level and remain there for the entirety of its 54-minute playing time. ‘Nicholas’ perhaps provides a brief respite from the monotone-ness of it all, offering up some nice, melodic moments and an epic, dream-like chorus, reminiscent of an electronic Mew. Album closer ‘Adjusted To The Darkness’ tries to be one of those slow, epic finales, but due to the fact that most of the songs on ‘Vicissitude’ sound like slow, epic finales, the desired effect isn’t quite realised.

It’s not like it’s unlistenable by any means. Maps is certainly a talented musician, and at times can craft some beautifully melodic, sonically captivating moments. It’s just that it all feels a bit weak and dated. The nods to Spiritualized and My Bloody Valentine are still there, but the world has moved on since then, and unfortunately, it feels like Maps is still stuck in 2007.