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Maps

We Can Create

Mute

Where to start? Maps’ debut full length We Can Create is a dreamy mess of swelling synthesizers and breathy vocals. Its almost like Elliott Smith and Stereolab teamed up way back in the prehistoric dawn of electronic music to record a fantasy film soundtrack. Yeah… this album is all that… plus a bag of chips.

So who is this group Maps, and why are they so cool? First, Maps is one man: James Chapman. Second, he is worthy of praise because he recorded this whole cacophony in his bedroom on vintage synths and a 16-track recorder. That’s right nerds, NO computers; just good old fashioned hard work. Now to be fair, Chapman did have some qualified help. We Can Create was co-produced by Valgeir Sigurosson, a regular contributor on Bjork’s albums. And the uber-experienced Ken Thomas mixed the album.

Enough about the people, lets talk about the music. We Can Create doesn’t get stale, even with repeated playbacks. And that's good, because too much electro-pop gets boring. Chapman’s old fashioned equipment and lo-fi recording techniques seem to be the secret ingredient. There is a surreal ambiance to this album, a happy echo that whispers “I was made for your iPod, take me with you on a long walk and we can be friends.” The single “You Don’t Know Her Name” had some success on the charts in the UK this summer, but for my money, “To The Sky” made the simplest, most pleasing chorus on the album. Just beware or you may find it rattling around your head days later. Pop music is a powerful drug, and flashbacks are all to common even among casual users.

Anyone who considers the Postal Service a guilty pleasure will be proud to spin We Can Create, at least until these dope hooks are optioned to a parcel carrier… or worse, a corporate steak house.

Mute Records: www.mute.com