Mapstation – Distance Told Me Things To Be Said (~scape/Inertia)

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Low-key and bereft of virtuoso displays (not that there couldn’t be so, given the presence of Radian drummer Martin Brandlmayr), Mapstation’s oddly-titled Distance Told Me Things To Be Said—To Rococo Rot member Stefan Schneider’s fourth album and ~scape debut—at first seems a less than dynamic outing compared to the Berlin label’s previous output, yet its subtle charms insidiously grow with each listen. Mapstation (not a new project, incidentally, as the Düsseldorf resident has been performing under the name since 2000) merges Jamaica and Africa into a nu-dub hybrid, combining the faded aromatic vibe of the former with the hypnotic pulsations of the latter. Nominally referenced by “Loin d’Afrique,” the fusion is literally realized in “Constant” where Brandlmayr’s thrumming toms merge with the evocative wheeze of Schneider’s melodica. Despite an overall unified sound, individual songs differentiate themselves: bulbous synth tones become a tribal anchor for undulating melodies in “Sororities,” Rhodes chords and synth whooshes slither into view accompanied by Annie Whitehead’s trombone bluster in the skanky “Horns Version,” and Jelinek-styled crackle coats insistent burble in “The Sinuous Ribbon.” Warm and topographical, the album’s sense of place is enhanced by the incorporation of city-based field recordings within “Listening To Stockholm” and “Valencia Was Asleep” (harbour creaks and water sounds audible amidst the becalmed electronic wavers in the former, street noises in the slumbering latter). Sometimes what at first seems too understated ultimately proves more rewarding.

Ron Schepper

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