Electronica and shoegaze musician James Chapman returns with his project MAPS and a new album on his home label Mute Records. Six years after his debut We Can Create which reportedly was made during a time when Chapman was heavily involved in drug use, and four years after Turning The Mind which brought him back to sobriety, the British musician presents his third LP, Vicissitude. As the previous albums Chapman recorded the tracks primarily at home, and they were mixed by sound engineers Ken Thomas – who already collaborated with SIGUR RÓS, THE SUGARCUBES and M83 – and Jolyon Thomas.
We already know two songs from the album. His official comeback MAPS celebrated with the release of I Heard Them Say. The 12“ was sold out within a few hours what probably was also caused by the included remix from the master of slowed down industrial techno ANDY STOTT. And we already know the feelingly gleaming synthpop track A.M.A., the second single, and its remix by Norwegian singer-songwriter SUSANNE SUNDFOR.
Now A.M.A. opens an album that is – according to the words of Chapman – all about precarious transitions and trying periods of self-transformation: “The whole album is about change. It’s about dealing with a struggle – whatever that may be – and ultimately coming through it.“ This thematic focus may explain why Vicissitude sounds less extroverted and doesn’t swing ‘like a hedonistic after-party held after MAPS’ debut We Can Create’s Mercury Prize nomination’.
It’s again a fairly introspective album but less linked with this bombastic electropop that denoted Turning The Mind although Vicissitude is dominated by sprawling synth anthems too. But considering the album’s title and the proclaimed subject of change the listener might be surprised that there is so little variation and alternation within the LP. Knowing the mentioned tracks the remaining eight barely offer surprises. Mainly they sound a bit like they got stranded in MAPS‘s past. And that’s all the more tiring as the songs most often take more than five minutes. Maybe the album was actually ‘born from a long period of self-contemplation’, as Mute stated, but unfortunately Vicissitude is a pretty good evidence for what happens when the preoccupation with oneself finds no counterpoint in the exploration of what happens around.