PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Maps' 'Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss' Is an Expansive, Widescreen Record

Photo: Mute Records

Maps' Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss is a triumphantly realized album that finds him taking the concept of Pet Sounds, adding the 1960s folk-pop of the Byrds all while channeling the spaced-out rock of 1990s Spiritualized.

Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss
Maps

Mute

10 May 2019

To date, every Maps album has found British musician James Chapman wholly committed to a singular musical vision both musically and thematically. Whether it be the dream pop of his breakthrough debut, We Can Create, or the more searching indie electronic of his last album, Vicissitude, each album finds Chapman, capturing in amber, a particular mindset and unique musical approach.

Unsurprising then, that on new album, Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss, Chapman has decided to use a whole new set of tools. The most prominent being the employment of a six-piece orchestra to bring his vision to life. It's a striking sound, with each song coated in engaging, dreamy string arrangements as well as layered live drums, sweet female harmonies, chiming, folky guitar, and subtle electronics. It's a triumphantly realized album that finds him taking the concept of Pet Sounds, adding the 1960s folk-pop of the Byrds all while channeling the spaced-out rock of 1990s Spiritualized.

Those orchestral swells greet the listener from the outset, like being introduced to a new friend whose role it is to guide you on a very personal journey. The gentle majesty of the arrangement on "Surveil" is matched by Chapman's soft vocals that subtly direct the song forwards. Gradually the song shifts as female backing vocals bask in a warm, ethereal glow before leading the song to a life-affirming almost spiritual finale.

Chapman quickens the pace on "Both Sides" with chugging muted guitar chords providing the heartbeat as the strings ebb and flow around it. On "Howl Around", Chapman constructs the framework of the song from stuttering live drums and gliding guitar notes that seem to get caught in the air. Chapman's vocals manage the enviable trick of sounding both raw and vulnerable but also self-assured and emphatic, often all in the space of a single line.

There's a constant back and forth on the album with the lush, orchestral textures being pulled into more melancholic shapes by the lyrics. While often sounding lost and pained, the lyrics steer clear of outright desolation. Rather there is a wistful innocence to them, as Chapman attempts to place himself in the modern world by analyzing how his past has shaped him.

With Chapman enthusiastic about utilizing the abilities of the Echo Collective Orchestra to give the album a singular sound, it would be easy for the songs themselves to get lost. Thankfully, if anything, the strings reinforce the strength of the hooks, especially on "Wildfire". The song finds Chapman ruminating on the speed in which information including speculation, rumor, and falsehoods can spread in the digital age with no real way of containing them.

"Just Reflecting" finds organ and the strings complimenting each other beautifully, as they produce a rich, spacious sound as if reverberating around the eaves of an old church. Coupled with the wistful, sighing vocals and warm synths it's a thoughtful, contemplative song that invites listener introspection.

On the heartbreaking "She Sang to Me" the strings tap straight into the soul, while "Sophia" is the closest Chapman has ever got to Byrds-esque pop perfection. The brilliant, "The Plans We Make" combines a springy, upbeat xylophone figure with lightly bubbling synths that rise to the surface for a supreme chorus that catches you in its warm embrace.

The hooks continue on "New Star", with Chapman conjuring an enormous sound, with the song seemingly containing to grow and spread throughout its run time. The album concludes with "You Exist in Everything". A song that ties the various musical and thematic threads together perfectly as we are left to contemplate our place in the world and what led us to be here.

Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss is an expansive, widescreen affair that embraces the power of the orchestra to take you on a fulfilling emotional journey. With the music giving the album natural buoyancy, Chapman grants himself the freedom to unpick the thoughts running through his mind. However dark those thoughts may, he always manages to find the hope in sorrow. It's an excellent, rewarding album that could only have come from an artist with the determination and fortitude to realize such a clear and distinctive vision.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.

Music

Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.

Music

Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.

Music

Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.

Music

Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.

Music

Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.

Film

The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.

Music

British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.

Film

Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.

Music

​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.

Music

The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.

Music

Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.

Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.