A young Canadian piecing his life together on the other side of the world. An adolescent Scotsman shredding metal riffs in a suburb of Toronto, playing shows at a venue called The Dungeon at 13 years old. A German vagabond clutching a glowing orb in a hippie town in Australia, having disavowed all family ties. An old man dying slowly of Alzheimer‚Äôs who can‚Äôt recognize his own family. A woman who drops a $10 bill in the case of a novice busker and says, ''Never stop singing.''
All these characters populate the debut album by Mappe Of, an avant-folk tour de force that belongs to no time or place. Or perhaps not even of this Earth, judging by the alien, electronically enhanced vocals or some of the interstellar synths that intertwine with trumpets, violins, kalimba, autoharp and Mappe Of‚Äôs own intricate acoustic guitar playing. There are no live drums. No distorted guitars. Maybe the less you know about the man behind the curtain, the more you‚Äôll lose yourself in the music. ''As much as the human aspect of this music is important, and the intimacy, there‚Äôs a part of me that wants it to seem like it may not even be a human being communicating these ideas. I‚Äôd like my music to be grounded in reality while simultaneously feel like it‚Äôs from another world, to have this sense of mysticism,'' says the sonic architect behind what will be known to the world as Mappe Of.
He wants to keep his cards close to his chest, to make sure that no one mistakes him for Yet Another Singer/Songwriter With An Acoustic Guitar. You‚Äôve never seen him play live; no one has. Not that he doesn‚Äôt want to play this material live, at least not yet. There was that one time in college when he went to an open mic night: ''I didn‚Äôt like it,'' he says. ''Obviously I was taking it too seriously, but I‚Äôve always thought about the bigger picture and what I‚Äôm bringing to the table. I just thought, I‚Äôve seen this guy before, and there‚Äôs a lot of these guys. If I‚Äôm going to ask people to come out to a show, I want to give them something interesting.''
So he scoured up some equipment and set up shop in his friend‚Äôs basement in a sleepy university town; she played violin, flute and anything else she had lying around. In the wee hours of the night, she‚Äôd sneak him into the studio of the college‚Äôs recording arts program, where he‚Äôd twiddle knobs until dawn and feign surprise when students showed up. The administration eventually found out and told him to cease and desist. You‚Äôll notice they‚Äôre not credited in the album‚Äôs liner notes.
Mappe Of is a young man; his lyrics are about reckoning with one‚Äôs destiny, with one‚Äôs past, with one‚Äôs own mental health and capacity to love. ''Many of these songs are about struggling with putting your weight on another individual, asking them to bear your burdens when you don‚Äôt think you can bear them yourself,'' he muses. ''Having someone care more about you than you are able to care about them or yourself. Not being in an emotional state where you can enrich another person‚Äôs life, and you feel guilty for that.''
Mappe Of is not a solitary man. He has another band, comprised of old friends, where the roles are much more collaborative; they‚Äôll also back him up on these songs when he performs them for the first time. They‚Äôll sound different. So will his next album: ''I‚Äôve been writing as much music as I can, experimenting in as many genres as I can, and educating myself, in music and in general, in order to forge a new path,'' says the songwriter. With his debut album, he‚Äôs left enough of a tabula rasa for the music to go in any number of directions.
But for now, A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone is a sonic world unto itself, an aural landscape steeped in experience and imagination. ''I love records so much,'' he says. ''I don‚Äôt songs. The record has always been paramount to me. I want to create a universe you can lose yourself in, create a setting in which you can absorb yourself. The ideal record for me is one where you can lie back on your bed, listen to the whole thing and be taken somewhere.'' Mission accomplished.
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