[Album Review] Mappe Of - A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone
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Release Date: July 28, 2017
Label: Paper Bag Records
Taken at first blush one might conclude that Mappe Of is an indie-folk performer, along the lines of Fleet Foxes, although with more edge and a broader range of sounds. But that isn’t quite right (although it isn’t exactly wrong either) — he is really in essence an ambient artist. And by that I don’t mean dull and monotonous. Far from it. In fact, the one thing that elevates Mappe Of above the crowd (whether that’s indie-folk or ambient) is his surprising, and sometimes eccentric, compositions.

As the first track on ‘A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone’ , “Cavern’s Dark” in many ways sets a standard of sorts for the rest of the album — gentle folk/dreamy vocals with an ambient vibe and rhythm. From then on Mappe Of continually puts a twist on the theme. “Kaepora” is classical baroque folk, complete with lovely harmonies, but then things get unexpectedly psychedelic towards the end. “Carbon Scores and Smoke”, on the other hand, has a bluegrass/celtic flavour with banjos and synths that sound like screeching violins. That one gets almost surreal when the strange brass blurbs cut in. Then there’s “Ruin”, a tune that is as mournful as a ruin. But in amongst the ruins notes fall as rain, while above sonorous bass synths drift in and out like dark clouds. Midway through things go off in a completely different direction, with the vocals taking on a hard electronic edge and the music getting heavier.

Many of the tracks are instrumental, so Mappe Of doesn’t even need vocals to create a compelling tune. “I. Scathefire”, for example, evolves beautifully in layers, starting with odd but sweet chimes, with violin, guitars and synth strings being added in succession. It is a prime example of song composition, distinguishing Mappe Of as a master craftsman. And with ‘A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone’ he has crafted an masterful album.