Painting Landscapes with Sound
Ontario-based avant-folk artist Mappe Of released his debut album A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone on Paper Bag records. It’s an homage to the great Canadian outdoors and heavy but hopeful topics like life and death. Each track is beautifully composed, painting a picture of a landscape that cannot be described simply with words.
The solo project of Tom Meikle, who has previous experience in prog-metal music, Mappe Of’s sound is reminiscent of Bon Iver meets Fleet Foxes, featuring clear folk arpeggiations with some surprising electronic and metal aspects, ethereal vocals and wind instruments only when needed. The unpredictable nature of the tracks make taking a listen to the album front-to-back multiple times a must.
A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone starts hopeful with the mostly instrumental “Cavern’s Dark,” which adds trumpets and Bon Iver-inspired singing toward the very end of the track. “Nimbin” is slow and romantic, while “Kaepora” is quick, featuring a traditional folk sound with delightfully unexpected electronic aspects in the vocals. Some of the tracks are solely instrumental, including “I. Scathefire” and the latin-rhythmic “II. Leaftail.” The longest track, “Carbon Scores and Smoke,” incorporates the banjo and xylophone in the intro for a few rounds, extending it before the guitar and vocals come in; and when they do, it’s in dissonant harmony, disjointed in avant-garde fashion while the trumpet croons its response, slowly building to the end of the track.
“Unfound” is about the most straightforward track rhythmically and melodically, as Meikle sings his chorus in a soft falsetto, adding strings to break up the piece before it builds to the finale — a hair-raising strong vocal sound with ascending trumpets. “Ruin” is absolutely devastating, starting off with a deep cry of sound, eventually showcasing Meikle’s metal roots with some double bass drum action and deep guitar chords. “Peaceful Ghosts” is slow and stunning, featuring more vocal harmonies and allowing each instrument its time to shine, from drums to strings and piano. The closing track, “III. Cerulean,” is minimal in sound, stripping the music down to ostinato harmonics and harmonized vocals.
A Northern Star, A Perfect Stone is a strong first album for Mappe Of, putting Meikle on the map for modern-day avant-garde that’s accessible to fans of folk and experimental music. Take a listen and get transported to epic scenery like the Northern Lights — a place where colors dance in harmony with atmospheric music.