Milton Mapes' upcoming release, The Blacklight Trap (March 2005 on Undertow), is NOT a “concept album”. However, it is the kind of thing that makes most sense when you sit down and immerse yourself in it. This one is a little darker than their two previous releases. Whereas The State Line and Westernaire had a certain regional soundtrack quality, The Blacklight Trap is more of a global landscape. In Neil Young terms, its mood is more like On The Beach. It’s an intense record for heavy times, but not without a silver lining. It begins with a sunset “In The Corner Where It All Began” and ends with a deep night ballad in “Craters Of the Moon”. The characters in these songs all seem to be lost, wounded, or trapped; their salvation lying somewhere out of reach. If not in our world “The Blacklight Trap”, then somewhere beyond it.
Like the characters on the record, the band, too, finds itself in a sort of categorical limbo. While maintaining itself as a rock band by definition, the Milton Mapes sound often straddles the bounds of atmospheric indie-rock and timeless, dusty Americana. Although the band's roots are sewn into the imagery of the songs, their genre is not strictly one or the other.
Milton Mapes (from Austin, Texas) formed in 1999, naming the band after singer/guitarist Greg Vanderpool's grandfather. Vanderpool and bandmate Roberto Sánchez, both veterans of Dallas’ Deep Ellum music scene, subsequently spent a year in Nashville compiling songs that would make up Milton Mapes' debut release The State Line (2001). The 7-song CD was well-received by regional press and radio, drawing comparisons to Neil Young (Harvest) and Bruce Springsteen (Nebraska).
Milton Mapes eventually evolved into a complete band (now with the addition of Britton Beisenherz, Cliff Brown, and Jim Fredley), honing in closer on an atmospheric revival of Young's Crazy Horse or Bob Dylan's electric conversion. The group released Westernaire (Aspyr Media) in 2003, reflecting this migration with a heavy dose of layered guitars and textures. Sounding much less "country" than the title might suggest, Westernaire explores pastoral themes of "the unknown", love, and alcohol without being cliché in its delivery--oftentimes allowing the quiet moments of a song to shine as brightly as the loud ones in cinematic fashion.
Appearing both as a duo and with a full band, Milton Mapes continues to pioneer toward new audiences with a personal and diverse set of live performances. In addition to contributions for numerous compilation CDs, the group has shared stages with an assortment of its respected Texas contemporaries and touring acts such as Chris Whitley, Ron Sexsmith, Willie Nelson, Marah, and The Handsome Family. After gaining notable attention from press and radio around the US and overseas in 2003 and 2004, Milton Mapes is poised to bring its darkest and best record yet to the rest of the music world in 2005.
Britton Beisenherz - bass
Cliff Brown, Jr. - guitar, keys
Jim Fredley - guitars
Roberto Sanchez - drums
Greg Vanderpool - vocals, guitars
Milton Mapes: The Blacklight Trap (2005)
Milton Mapes: Westernaire (2003)
Milton Mapes: The State Line (2001)
Milton Mapes/Nate Fowler: Sway Split Single (2001)
"Stubb’s The Zombie" Video Game Soundtrack (2005)
HearMusic Sweetheart Compilation (2005)
Bloodshot Records 10th Anniv Compilation (2005)
HearMusic Vol 10: Reveal Compilation (2003)
Paste Magazine Music Sampler 9 Compilation (2004)
Miles of Music - Westernaire 12/19/03
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Milton Mapes - a band not a man - drive a raw, visceral roots-rock behemoth that engages innocently ...Milton Mapes - a band not a man - drive a raw, visceral roots-rock behemoth that engages innocently enough, then rolls right over you. With aggressive guitars and lazy vocal delivery, Westernaire finds an even flow between the indie rock ethos and brash force of Crazy Horse-like power.
Resonance Magazine - Westernaire 2004
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This is the record that feathered-mop anti-wonder Pete Yorn will never have the soul to write, or be...This is the record that feathered-mop anti-wonder Pete Yorn will never have the soul to write, or better still, the record that Neil Young would pen given a steady diet of Pedro the Lion. Anyway the hybrid is cut, Milton Mapes have made an album of furrowed brows, hard won bruises, and heavy drinking fables built on guitars layered like thunderheads and drums that snap-crack through the haze. Lead singer and songsmith Greg Vanderpool sounds perpetually on an emotional verge, never quite breaking free from his demons and the thick weight of the band’s top-down density. Lyrically, Westernaire is a black diary of tamped-down frustrations, abandoned road trips, and treading water with gritted teeth. If that constricted misery was their sum total, the album would go down like a dry wishbone, but songs like “The Only Sound That Matters,” with a naked guitar strum and Vanderpool’s wounded sneer, offer redemption in the painful beauty of a fall from grace that’s achingly well put.
No Depression - Westernaire March-April 2004
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Perhaps this is too topical of a comparison, but while listening to Westernaire, I couldn't help but...Perhaps this is too topical of a comparison, but while listening to Westernaire, I couldn't help but think of Sofia Coppola's acclaimed film Lost In Translation. Both works do an expert job of capturing mood and setting. For Milton Mapes, that setting is not Tokyo, but the rugged and lonesome landscape of the American Southwest...."The Only Sound That Matters", the raggedly right "This Kind Of Danger", and "A Thousand Songs About California", an introspective ode to watching too many friends get the hell out of town, are standouts on this debut from a band full of promise.
Dallas Morning News - Westernaire 1/16/04
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Westernaire, Milton Mapes’ latest CD, hums with a spacious, eerie twang that suggests Neil Young str...Westernaire, Milton Mapes’ latest CD, hums with a spacious, eerie twang that suggests Neil Young strumming along to U2’s The Unforgettable Fire.
Pop Matters - Concert Review 7/1/2003
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Milton Mapes are a crew of alt-country rockers who share the same taste in epic balladry as artists ...Milton Mapes are a crew of alt-country rockers who share the same taste in epic balladry as artists like My Morning Jacket and Neko Case. Greg Vanderpool, their lead singer, has a sorrowful vice grip of a voice, every syllable wrestled with and let go with an almost exhaustive weight. Pared down to a duo, the boys sat on the steps of the stage and proceeded to belt out one of the most introspective and haunted performances I've heard since my first Beth Orton show. Like a twang-skewed Pedro the Lion, Milton Mapes build slow burning songs from the scaffolding of carefully drawn images, slow escalations of mood, and an inner intensity that almost has to be turned away from to be absorbed. "Lubbock" stood out for me, with an almost missionary seriousness, sketching out a transfixing narrative as down-to-earth and engrossing as a campfire yarn. I have yet to see the full band perform, but if the unplugged set is any indication, these guys must put on a jarringly gorgeous live set with everyone in tow. Vanderpool makes Jeff Tweedy seem like a superficial emotional skimmer, and I can't wait for their next full length to drop.
Four States Living Magazine - Westernaire 9/01/03
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Milton Mapes is an Austin band that may have issued one of the best recordings of the year. While th...Milton Mapes is an Austin band that may have issued one of the best recordings of the year. While there have been some strong releases in 2003, none have mixed innovation and tradition as well as this group's Westernaire. It is full of rich textures and overlapping sounds that easily remind the listener of Neil Young's greatest work. The band has moved towards a full rock sound with driving guitars, thundering base lines, and great drum work. Westernaire is American music at its best: open-ended, expansive, and textured with the complexities of the modern condition.
Austin Chronicle - SXSW 3/21/2003
Best SXSW Showcase of 2003: Milton Mapes --Christpher Gray
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