Louis Pattison 2007
Maps is the brainchild of one James Chapman, a Northampton-based bedroom experimentalist turned dream pop auteur who, if you believe the stories, wrote this – his Mercury Music Prize-nominated debut album - single-handedly in his room with little but a mini-mountain of instruments and a 16-track recorder.
Certainly, he’s not without his inspirations: these eleven woozy, heavily embellished, echo-soaked songs recall past gems from the history of shoegazey guitar pop, from the opiated guitar fuzz of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless to the trippy orchestrals of Spiritualized’s Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space.
When it came to recording We Can Create, Chapman chose to leave the seclusion of his bedsit studio and travelled out to Reykjavik, Iceland to work with veteran Bjork/Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy producer Valgeir Sigurdsson. Importantly, though, this isn’t an album that relies on studio muscle to the detriment of plain good ideas. Take the opening “So Low, So High”. It surges forward on a feedback wave that could have washed in straight from My Bloody Valentine’s "Soon", but soon, plunging violins and shimmering choral voices take it somewhere quite different, Chapman relating a tale of recent heartbreak in a hushed sing-whisper: ‘Think I lost my girl/But I’ll run it off/Spending most my time/Forgetting at all cost’. The beautiful “Elouise”, meanwhile, deals with similar matters of the heart, borne along on shimmering organ and a stuttering, baggy-tinged beat – but before long, an unexpected line-up of instruments loom out of the mix – violins, cellos, trombone, and even flugelhorn; indeed, a small Icelandic orchestra, submerged under the feedback like divers under ice.
There are moments where Maps tone down the songcraft and seem content to lose themselves in the beauty of droning synths and fuzzed-out textures – take the eerie
“It Will Find You”, a gloomy black icicle of sound pitted with strange electronic whooshes and bleeps. But ultimately, it’s the songs, and their heavy emotional content that makes We Can Create a keeper.