by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
James Chapman is breaking new ground with his fifth long player under the Maps pseudonym.
Whereas we have previously admired his crafting of richly coloured soundscapes and winsome melodies, Chapman has gone for broke this time and made a number of concessions in the direction of 1990s dance music.
This brings a whole new element to his style of compositions, and an album that began to form in the wake of his 2019 opus Colours. Reflect. Time. Loss. now has its own platform. In addition, Counter Melodies is structured as a DJ set might be.
What’s the music like?
In a word, euphoric. James Chapman has been sitting on this natural instinct for a while, and right from the dazzling salvo of synths starting Witchy Feel it is clear that he knows exactly how to make people dance.
As Counter Melodies progresses, the energy levels remain turned up to the max. Windows Open is upfront and brightly coloured, while a plethora of rave references and rhythm patterns lead to euphoric breakdowns, best experienced in the likes of Lack Of Sleep – which was indeed inspired by insomnia, a time of worry put to good use.
Heya Yaha demonstrates a rhythmic versatility we haven’t seen before from Chapman, with a really good rhythm, given a more jagged profile. Thru Lights is lent an exotic colour with what sounds like a cimbalom, typical of this album’s willingness to throw expectations out of the window.
Does it all work?
It does – colourful, energetic and pleasingly rough around the edges.
Is it recommended?
Very much so. A surprise for Maps fans, which may take a little bit of getting used to – but James Chapman has succeeded in bringing the living, breathing, sweating dancefloor right to the middle of your living room.