Mappe Of -‘The Isle Of Ailynn.’ (Paper Bag Records)
Mappe Of is the moniker of Canadian avant-folk artist Tom Meikle. On this, his second album he sets out to document a fantasy world that draws parallels between a mythological space and everyday conflicts, concerns and struggles within our lives. While that might sound on paper like the sort of stuff that punk rock came to save us from a little over forty years ago, this is no prog-folk monstrosity, but rather a thing of beauty. I come not to bury brother Meikle but to praise him.
Moodwise, it’s absolutely perfect for this time of year in the northern hemisphere. Daylight is becoming progressively more and more scarce, and the sense that nothing is permanent becomes ever more prevalent. Were it not for the fact it’s so damn cold here in Scotland, I’d be using this as the soundtrack to walk barefoot through autumn leaves and treasuring what remains outside. I’ll just have to wrap up warm – but this warms the soul.
Comparisons have been made with the likes of Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, the sense of the very sad being absolutely beautiful. While it sounds nothing like Mogwai in full-on explosive mode, it does capture a lot of their magnificent melancholia. At times his voice reminds me of Tim and Jeff Buckley, perhaps most on ‘Thessalon’ and the fragility of music evokes Vashti Bunyan or Mercury Rev circa Deserter’s Songs. Yes it’s ethereal in places, and electronic in others – the juxtaposition on ‘Unkno’ (no, that’s really not a spelling mistake) is particularly successful. Voices sore like church choirs (as opposed to Gospel choirs), both evoking death and life.
‘Volcae’ evokes Radiohead as much as the Buckleys; with its refrain of ‘I was born in magma’ it evokes both Meikle’s beloved fantasy writing as much as reflecting on the turbulent world that the first two decades of the twenty-first century have been. Pan’s Labyrinth made the viewer try to make sense of the fantasy and reality and what was really stranger; this works on a similar level.
At this time of year, the music writer finds themselves drawn to consider end of year (and decade) lists. I hope this will manage to make itself known to those who can spread the word as much as listeners. While the music within here may not appeal to all, those who take the time to live within the album will want to spread the word. If you cast aside your prejudices, you will find yourself rewarded. If folk, prog, psychedelia or ethereal sounds have ever moved you, then take the time to investigate this. There’s scarcely a wasted note within.
The Isle Of Ailynn is released on November 1 on Paper Bag Records.