Why would anyone go to a concert when they don’t know anything about the band? This is the kind of question a legion of loyal partners could answer in a second, having been dragged along to their other half’s music of choice for an evening of suppressed yawns and encouraging looks when asked/told ‘they’re amazing, aren’t they??’. But perhaps, once in a while, it does a music fan good to step outside of his or her comfort zone and try something a bit different, to check out the fans on the other side and be reminded that white, geeky men make up 80% of most concert going audiences.
Fact.The realisation that your new buddies for the evening have a higher tolerance for repetitive beats and have probably experimented rather more earnestly with recreational drugs while of late every concert you’ve been to has been rammed with Topmannequins wielding cameraphones and a post-ironic sense of their own self-worth might even make a refreshing change! And so to the ICA for an evening of NME-sanctioned, rock-tinged electronica, courtesy of James Chapman and his band, ‘Maps’.
The five-piece took to the stage to subdued but sincere whoops and applause and proceeded to translate bedroom computer 'n' synth shoegazerish melancholia into a sound to fill the compact but beautifully formed venue and excite the near capacity crowd. Or that was the idea, at least. In reality it was hard to understand how so many musicians could make such a weedy sound. That's not to say there weren't flashes of excitement, but more often these came from percussive outbursts with Chapman laying aside his guitar or keyboards to attack a nearby drum, augmenting the extraordinary (in a good way) drummer's beats and pieces. Somehow this wasn't enough though, and the much hoped for melodic peaks never appeared. Instead the crowd had to make do with rising synth chords which, for some, may have rekindled the best night of their lives somewhere in a field in Hampshire but more likely would have cemented the indelible human instinct concerning musical flourishes that rely on the listener being off his or her face for their emotional resonance having no place in real music. Besides, this was Monday night, not the second summer of love and the crowd knew it was a school night.
A quick listen to the EP teaser of the new album will reveal all the things that the live show currently lacks, not least of all a degree of sonic complexity and occasional, welcome shades of My Bloody Valentine. Maps may be a headphone masterpiece, perhaps even an end-of-the-night festival crowd winner but not, alas, a Monday-night-at-the-ICA head-nodder.