One of the better albums of the new crop of shoegazers, Maps‘ We Can Create is a dense miasma that is nearly impossible to pull apart. Is that a treated guitar or a synthesizer? Real drums or samples. Strings or a keyboard preset? Only James Chapman‘s breathy voice is easily discernible in the mix.
So I had no idea what to expect from their appearance at Luna Lounge on Saturday night. Or even if it would be a "they." Chapman made the whole album by himself. My worry was it would be Chapman alone on stage with a laptop and a smoke machine.
There was a laptop onstage and Chapman, but also four other guys rounding out the Maps Live Experience, including a drummer (sans headphones), a bassist and two multi-instrumentalists who divided their time between keyboards and guitars. There were also a couple drums and crash cymbals scattered around the stage for Chapman and others to take advantage of at various times over the course of the evening.
With a smile on his face the night, Chapman seemed generally chuffed to be playing the enthusiastic audience, even if it was only about half capacity. (The crowd would’ve filled Mercury Lounge, where they played the night before.) The 45 minute set hit all of We Can Create‘s highlights, including "Eloise," "You Don’t Know Her Name" and forthcoming single "To the Sky." If the show lacked anything, it was a visual element. Maps’ music has a mysterious, elusive quality but Chapman seemed entirely approachable. Maybe that smoke machine wouldn’t have been a bad idea after all.
Addendum: I haven’t been much of a fan of the new Luna Lounge and have said so more than once here in the past, my main complaint being tinny, boomy sound that was often set at full volume even when empty. I am happy to report that my last two visits here, the sound issues seem to have been solved. I still wish there was a separate room where you could hang out if you didn’t want to watch the band, but otherwise they’ve really improved the place all around, and the bartenders are especially nice.