Maps / James Chapman
We Can Create
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2007, Volume 14, #7
Written by John Metzger
Sun July 1, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
For decades upon decades, artists have been writing songs and creating demos within the confines of their own bedrooms. Typically, they eventually were forced to venture into a recording studio, where interactions with other people became a necessary step toward completing their work. Now that the digital age is in full swing, however, anyone who wants to record a full-fledged, professional-sounding album can do so on their own terms, without so much as an accomplice to provide input. Everyone from Moby to The Streets to Mull Historical Society has become a virtual one-man show, though the results largely have been mixed, primarily from a creative perspective.
The latest musician to turn a DIY project into a label-distribution deal is James Chapman, who, recording under the moniker Maps, has been championed quite heavily by the ever-gushing British press. In this case, at least, Chapman’s initial efforts were enough to attract the attention of Valgeir Sigurosson and Ken Thomas — associates of Bjork and Sigur Ros, respectively. With their help, Chapman blew the shoe-gazing electronica of his singles up into the 11-track, 52-minute saga of his full-length debut We Can Create.
At first, it appears as if Chapman will escape the insularity that typically undermines many like-minded affairs. Opening cut So Low, So High, for example, rides in triumphantly upon a crested wave of giddy beats and buzzing synthesizers, and Chapman’s voice glides effortlessly over the top of the fray, like a day-glo Billy Corgan who has awakened from the slumberous depths of his deepest depression. Two tracks later, Chapman applies a similar approach to Elouise by pitting the music’s percussive atmospherics against the billowy, psychedelic dream-state from which his vocals seem to spring.
The problem with We Can Create, however, is that, as it progresses, the combination of Chapman’s electronically throbbing backdrops and his ethereally wispy keyboard accompaniments quickly begins to sound rather monotonous. Even worse, when he strips his arrangements bare, as he does on Glory Verse, the result is both exceedingly dull and claustrophobically cloying. Although his melodies are pleasing, his arrangements, despite their initial lustrous density, grow increasingly and tediously generic. Maps’ We Can Create essentially is a one-trick pony that wears out its welcome long before it reaches its conclusion. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box