Compulsion | PO Box 19577 | Kilbarchan |Johnstone | PA10 2WX | Scotland | UK

Map 71 - Turn Back Metropolis

It's hard to believe that Turn Back Metropolis is the fifth album from Map 71, a group based around Andy Pyne's electronics and drums and Lisa Jayne's spoken word. Those sharp, lined images adorning the sleeves are matched by the curt, vivid phrases and descriptions of the lyrics. Avoiding anything approaching a verse/chorus structure it is as if Lisa Jayne has transformed those images into words, while Andy Pyne draws on post-punk, synth pop and elements of dance music to create the raw, minimalist electronics bolstered by an undercurrent of rhythmic styles. It's an intriguing satisfying blend of electronics and experimentation in the vein of Suicide and PiL with vocals in the spirit of Ari-Up and Polystyrene encapsulating the brutality, vacuousness and sterility of the modern world. Gloriosa and Void Axis were great albums and there's no let-up with Turn Back Metropolis. Given wider exposure Map 71 could easily find more willing ears.

'Cyanide White' pulses to throbbing, jabbering electro tones over taut rhythms, broken only by stabs of synth chime and the occasional flourish of drum roll. In that English accented voice Lisa Jayne's delivery is rhythmic and almost lilting. Vivid and descriptive, one excerpt runs: "For boy-cut perfection, limbs marble blue, your only deception, suicide pact" from a text that feels subject to juxtaposition.'Siren Tank', meanwhile, aligns darting beaty electro rhythms over rolling floor toms, electrified by spurts of synth-pop chime stepping up a gear with the addition of quickened hi-hats. Andy Pyne makes a rare vocal appearance here surrounding Lisa Jayne's cut-up observations of club life with a rasp of "mayhem nouvelle". The disparate elements combining electro rhythms, tribal beats and edgy punk vocals have a rawness and energy which could be considered a mutant form of post-punk. 'Scissor Kiss Experiment' continues that urgency with a propulsive hypnotic energy in its cyclical jazzy drumming and twitchy electronics. In poised and measured tones Lisa Jayne's offers up colourful, spiritual abstract prose appending each line with the title, surrounded by electro claps, fragmented effects and sound squiggles allowing a dance music elements to permeate the hypnotic rhythm.

Map 71 delve back to early eighties industrial electronics on 'Spirograph' where analogue sequences pulse over sustained synth drone. Map 71 songs are usually economic bristling with subtle nuances but this one is busier than usual and embellished with whirring Radiophonic bleeps and short flurries of melodic synth contrasting with Lisa Jayne's slow, poised enunciations, in a text based around claustrophobia and oppression, highlighting the intended disconnect between music and voice that characterises much of Map 71 songs.

Something I've failed to pick up on before is the complexity which arises from Lisa Jayne's lyrics. On previous albums those words appeared more narrative and poetry based. Now those evocative words and astute observations of (sub)urban life, daubed in colour palettes, referencing nature, the cosmos and magic seem subject to fold-in and cut-up techniques. Perhaps, I'm wrong and they are just a random assortment of descriptive phrases and couplets. Either way, the specific meaning of the songs is obscured and harder to decipher leaving only hints, clues and feelings but within those flowing rhythmic soundscapes it certainly works as Map 71 are doing something unique and inventive.

Andy Pyne's rhythmic backbone is central to the Map 71 sound and it's most apparent on tracks such as 'Stitches' where sustained synth drone is enlivened by skittering drums rolls and rhythms broken with the occasional cymbal crash and later augmented with diving whoosh effects. The accented spoken vocal speaks of the boredom and violence - with a latent undercurrent of sexual activity - endured by small town adolescents trying to escape either their home or their life by whatever means in lyrics anchored around the lines "on a keychain, lucky charms and a penknife", while 'Highrise' is an overheated morass of squealing and squeaking careering alongside some physical thunderous drumming, with lyrical references touching on high rises, passenger seats and famous celebrities revealing a Ballardian influence, maybe. On 'Suburbanites', Lisa Jayne unleashes a wordy spoken piece interspersed with a series of seemingly random numbers. The whole thing is underpinned by a cascade of rhythmic floor tom stylings and punctuated by dirty synths pounds. With its emphasis on experimentation, electronics, percussion and voice I can't help but think that PiL's album The Flowers of Romance must be a touchstone for Map 71.

Map 71 are at their bleakest on the title track. Opening with unaccompanied voice it creeps forward with edgy dirge like synths and drums pared back into stark beats. Minimal and dub like, shape-shifting grating effects envelop Lisa Jayne's unaffected delivery about the oppression of sterile tower block life, a living dystopia in an architectural dream gone wrong as piercing squeals and shrieks bring this to an end.

This, like their previous albums co-released by Fourth Dimension Records and Foolproof Projects, is great though. Those minimalist electronics and rhythms are designed to never overshadow the vivid, cryptic prose resulting in a sound that is edgy and enthralling. If you've missed their previous albums then Turn Back Metropolis is as good as any place to discover this inventive and thrilling group. For more information go to Map 71 bandcamp or Fourth Dimension Records