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The swirling vocals and many layered backings make this a hypnotic and addictive set of music. Much of the backing music follows the main lyrical melody - making much of this music take on the air of some form of chant. The melodies often circle round a theme which adds to the hypnotic feel. This is gentle, soft music without being limp and unimaginative.
Splendid, meditative stuff suitable to all who those who like to become lost in the music they listen to.
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VINE VOICEon 2 January 2008
Maps : We Can Create was short listed for the 2007 Mercury music prize but didn't win it as some band from somewhere cooler than Northampton (Just about anywhere then) and with far more interesting haircuts won it instead . This is one of those albums I have been meaning to listen to but never found the time as I was too busy listening to other things that seemed far more diverting. I regret that now because having eventually got around to listening to We Can Create I really like it. It reminds me , and I realise I am not being especially cognisant in saying this, of many of the shoe gazing* bands of the early nineties. This is a good thing as I really quite enjoyed some of them and this album while harking back to that scene is not entirely derivative either. Bear with me while i do something academic*"Shoegazing (also known as shoegaze or shoegazer; practitioners referred to as shoegazers) is a genre of alternative rock that emerged from the United Kingdom in the late 1980s, lasting until the mid 1990s. The shoegazing sound featured extensive use of guitar effects, and indistinguishable vocal melodies that blended into the creative noise of the guitars."
(Adapted from Wikipedia)
So how does it differ from say My Bloody Valentine, to whom it has been most frequently compared? Well for a start Maps are like a shoe gaze version of The Streets, in this case James Chapman in his bedroom with lots of dreadfully complicated stuff. Using electronics rather than more traditional organic six stringed instrumentation Chapman manages to craft aurally compelling vistas that while using the quiet/loud template of his peers have a dynamic integrity of their own. Plus he can write good enough songs with which to drape his sounds capes over.
Opening track "So Low , So High" while encapsulating the music's whole philosophy is a tremendous panorama of manipulated vocal effects and neck craning orchestration. It reminds me also of M83 who do this kind of choral vocal/electronic amalgamation equally adeptly. This is the albums highlight and it must be said the first half of the album is superior to the latter where it becomes a little formulaic and less sonically captivating.
That said the scabrous shifting tones and heavy duty percussion of "Elouise" are hugely imposing and bring to mind the excellent "Band Of Susans". "It Will Find You" has the clipped precise beats of nineties dance music and the reticulated rhythmic grace of MBV,s masterpiece "Soon". "Back + Forth" does too funnily enough with it's breathy backing vocals . "When You Leave" is all gossamer keyboards and brusque beats like Spiritualized on a budget. "Glory Verse" unfortunately doesn't have a verse worth any glory but it is a commendable attempt at a melancholy sparse ballad , at odds with the fulsome tones most often utilised.
We Can Create is a laudable attempt to redefine or maybe resurrect a genre of music that for all it's flaws gave us some terrific bands. You can quibble that the album isn't diverse enough though that didn't stop MBV (Yes them again) releasing two wondrous albums and that Chapman's vocals lack the character and emotional strength to make the songs really connect emotionally with the listener but then vocal prowess was never what music like this was about .Given time , and maybe moving out of the bedroom Chapman has what it takes to make a true classic (Not like Adrian Gurvitz who wrote a "Classic " in his attic ) He may even win the Mercury but I wouldn't let that become his major motivator ....he should believe ....he can CREATE.
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on 12 February 2009
I think many people don't quite understand Maps. James Chapman allegedly spearheaded the Nu Gaze movement, but this suggests he's producing walls of sound, droning space rock and dark psychedelica. Surely 'To The Sky' is evidence enough that he's not staring at his shoes.

I'll not beat around the bush, I L-O-V-E this album, from start to finish. Not since the Stone Roses has anyone so perfectly and effortlessly melded brilliant melodies with dance beats. The difference is as Maps is only one person, the beats in question are electronica rather than house. Picks are Eloise, Liquid Sugar, Don't Fear, You Don't Know Her Name, but all the songs are of high quality.

Critics of the album say its all too samey - such people miss the point. Maps have produced 11 tracks that may 'sound' the same (though this is something I would dispute) but are all still brilliant. Some would argue this is the art of true music.

But frankly you can get too analytical, which I want to avoid. I deliberately avoided writing a review until a good time after its release and Mercury music buzz, to show it stands the test of time. This isn't just an album for music enthusiasts, its an album for anyone who wants to pick a track at random and feel abit better about life three minutes later. A fine fine debut.
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on 20 July 2007
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.
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on 9 August 2007
A cross between Beloved (from the original summer of love, '89, natch), Aqualung and some kind of blissed out David Arnold, this is simply too bloody nice... Eloise is a corker - hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention... heartbreaking, uplifting, Maps is the real deal. Park your car up on the forest at sunset, crank it and weep
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on 27 April 2008
We Can Create by Maps is a swirling, swaggering, modern shoe-gazing classic and, by the power of Greyskull, it is growing on this eager punter with every listen. I appreciate the fact that We Can Create was created and written in the Northampton bedroom of someone called James because its euphoric, insouciant swagger suggests a more epic origin. I forced my MP3 player's headphones deep into my ears ce matin, cranked the volume up to onze and shook to this album as I did the weekly shop at the Coles' supermarché of choice. Against the backdrop of these dreamlike and evocative numbers, selecting the appropriate detergent proved a joy. Well done!
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VINE VOICEon 25 January 2008
A glittering treat of a record in amongst some of the mud of the year. Not at all what I expected when I bought it. I thought they were a one off electronica outfit in the style of `Squarepusher'. Nope, this is a big sound glam, electro thing, covered in whispered vocals with obvious nods to MBV and Spacemen 3. Check out `You don't know her name' and `Elouise' for some great melodies. The record is a bit front-loaded but overall it's got some outstanding tracks on and deserved to be short-listed for the Mercury Prize.
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on 3 March 2008
Romantic in the sense of elegiac or idyllic other-worldliness; pastoral in its undulating restfulness. There is a plodding synthesiser sameyness which verges on monotony, but this four-star score reflects what in my opinion are four or five excellent compositions which I will return to. At the risk of tiring you with yet another artist comparison, the American couple Joy Zipper do this sort of thing with a bit more gusto, in a proper studio. They supported Air in 2004 which gives an idea of the target market.
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on 21 August 2007
This album is gorgeous.
I bought it on impulse and have been listening to it nonstop.
I actually think it deserves 5 stars, but since I've only had it for 3 days it probably wouldn't be fair to give it 5.
I come from a Sigur Rós, Mogwai, Muse, Radiohead, Mew, 65daysofstatic... music background and I found this to be really refreshing and uplifting, but not in a cheesy way.
I especially love the song 'Liquid Sugar', but there is really not a single weak or even average track.
Can't wait for the next album.
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on 21 May 2007
This is a very good debut which warrants anybody's attention. Think the Stone Roses crossed with Spiritualized. Lots of great songs with breathy vocals and fuzzy electronic backing. If you want to download a taster, start with 'Elouise'.

My only criticism is that the feel on all the songs is very similar. There's really not enough 'Light' and 'Shade'. Having said this, I'll follow James Chapman's career with interest over the next few years. I suspect he could be in for big things
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