The sonic cathedrals on Maps' debut We Can Create suggested that James Chapman had ambition to burn, but the deeply conceptual and personal nature of his follow-up, Turning the Mind, confirms it. From its title onward, Maps' second album is inspired by the cognitive therapy method Mindfulness, which uses the acceptance of reality to turn negative thoughts into positive ones. It's also influenced, so to speak, by the effects chemicals can have on the brain to good or ill effect. Chapman explores how drugs and therapy can help or hurt, how they can be crutches or bridges, over the course of Turning the Mind's mood swings, which certainly sound chemically altered. Working with Death in Vegas' Tim Holmes as his producer, Chapman opts for a more overtly electronic sound as he charts emotional peaks and valleys. To his credit, Chapman mixes his signals a bit, couching pissed-off lyrics like "I Dream of Crystal"'s "get the fuck off my case" in billowing clouds of synths. And even though the fittingly named "Nothing" -- which is so dark and whispery, it sounds like the echo of a song -- and the blissful "Valium in the Sunshine" are more predictable choices, they still work. Turning the Mind provides Chapman with a springboard to try new things. "Let Go of the Fear," a collaboration with Berlin-based producer Oliver Huntemann, channels the euphoric energy of Chapman's work into a four-on-the-floor workout. "Die Happy Die Smiling" is even more radical, pairing the most forceful beat ever to appear on a Maps song with streaking synths. Chapman even strips down Maps' usually lush layers on the urgent "Papercuts," and to a lesser extent, on "Everything is Shattering," which makes New Order's influence on his work crystal clear. At times, Chapman seems in danger of being too earnest or letting his ambitions get the better of him, but Turning the Mind ends up being a significant step forward for Maps' music.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares