Sleep, shag, and make Mercury Prize-nominated albums, that's what. James Chapman aka Maps made the bulk of his aptly-titled debut LP We Can Create on an old 16-track recorder squeezed into his flat in Northampton, England. That's right, with noisy old instruments and ne'er a computer in sight. The neighbors must've kicked up murder.
What type of music had the Jones's banging on the wall? An updated version of "shoegaze", don't you know. That bookish older brother of a genre from the early 90s that championed droning guitars, whispery voices, trippy lyrics, and floppy fringes.
Shoegaze strove to create a specific feeling. Namely, that of being off your head on drugs. In a quiet, let's-not-attract-the-barman's-attention kind of way.
Chief purveyors of this performance-enhanced music in the 90s were My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Chapterhouse, and Chapman's closest descendent Spacemen 3. They followed in the footsteps of the world's first shoegazer, John Lennon. He tried his damndest to replicate an acid trip with Tomorrow Never Knows. The result was out of this world. And he had a floppy fringe.
Chapman (no relation to Mark) has given us Shoegaze 3.0. A refit that maintains the genre's mood of low-key psychedelia. He's kept the breathy vocals, angelic aahs, and kiss-the-sky mantras. But the droning guitars are gone. Replaced by a universe of atmospheric electronics, including buzzing synths, trip-hop drums, and the odd Namlook-esque space bleep. In other words, ShoeRave.
Album centrepoint To The Sky winds into being like a musical jewellery box. Then the space-age beats kick in, and we're through the bedroom window off towards the clouds, where an ethereal voice drones dreamily, "I can sing it to the sky/ But there's a risk it won't reply/ If I could change it man I would/ And I won't screw it up this time". Words that seem meaningful but make no rational sense. Perfect.
The euphoric outros of Back & Forth and Eloise are also highlights. Non-stoned listeners will feel like they're pepped up on goofballs. Stoned listeners may have to be scraped off the ceiling.
Every respectable drug-related album needs a microdot of mysticism. On the stately Glory Verse Chapman gets transcendent while ruminating over his gift for music. "These sounds will never leave you/will be there to receive you/these songs, they seem to write themselves."
More prosaically I love how Chapman drawls a colloquial "yerrr" for "yes" on this and other songs. It suggests that when not writing music that reaches for the sky, James Chapman is very down to earth. Should serve him well at awards ceremonies.
For Fans Of
M83 , Stars, Low, Spiritualized, Spaceman 3, Sigur Ros, Chapterhouse, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Flying Saucer Attack, and Kid-A era Radiohead.