Mappa Mundi

Mappa Mundi

Brooklyn, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | SELF | AFM

Brooklyn, New York, United States | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Folk Rock




"Mappa Mundi Named One of The Deli Magazine’s Best Emerging Artists for 2016"

A full five years stood between Mappa Mundi’s debut album and its second: 2015’s At Sea. It was worth it. The entire affair overflows with emotion and epigram, meted out in equal parts, and underscored by a mass of steampunk horns and strings. Indeed, no word is too ornamental here—just keep your thesaurus nearby.

-Brian Chidester, The Deli Magazine - The Deli Magazine

"Mappa Mundi Nominated for Best of NYC, Emerging Artists"

Almost a year ago exactly, New York chamber pop six-piece released ‘At Sea,’ which is more of a sonic novella than a traditional EP. On such wistful, guitar-strummed songs and horn-sloped tracks such as “So Obscure” and “Mirabelle” (streaming below), the Adam B Levine-led band imbued poignant scenes of love and loss with a literary purity that was not only impressive in its vividness but preciously moving in its effect. Mappa Mundi plays Pete’s Candy Store on 2/5. - The Deli

"In A Word: Monumental"

Mappa Mundi is a chamber pop band from Brooklyn and its five members hail from various backgrounds, including punk, jazz, Americana, and classical chamber music; while many groups are composed of musicians from varying backgrounds, few have successfully merged those influences as well as this outfit. Every song on this EP sounds different, yet coherent, as if Murder By Death, Voltaire, and R.E.M sat down to write an album together. At Sea, in keeping with its classical chamber influences, follows an almost symphonic form, with “So Obscure” and “Out Here” acting as the first movement, or sonata, “Mirabelle” being the adagio, “Right” and “Lost” as the minuet, and “A Blunt Object, Oh Robert” as the rondo, or final movement.

“So Obscure” and “Out Here” are both relatively upbeat, and introduce the themes of the album in a mid-tempo, lively way, creating an Americana-soaked orchestral house band sound. With acoustic guitar strums, light drum and string presence, and singer Adam Levine’s slight vocal twang, the first track has a clearly country vibe, however, this is quickly traded off for a waltz-style rhythm with heavy string and electric guitar punctuation, as well as soaring trumpet solos, and deceptively low-key verses.

The halfway point of At Sea is “Mirabelle,” a mostly acoustic ballad that builds up to include contrasting violin/cello melodies and a touching bassline, with drummer Matt Moore breaking in for a final chorus. “Right” mixes bittersweet lyrics with a deceitfully cheerful instrumentation, going so far as to introduce ukulele noodling throughout the song. “Lost,” the following track, includes heavily syncopated and uncommon rhythms with acoustic guitar picking, but builds up to an impressive ending that incorporates an electric guitar and violin sharing a melodic call-and-response.

“Now, I am become Death.” Lyrics like that are bound to get your attention, regardless of who’s singing them. Now add what sounds like a matador’s fanfare behind those lyrics, and you’ll hear the true power of the statement. The final track on Mappa Mundi’s At Sea is, by far, the strongest and longest one on the EP, running at over seven minutes. Dynamic changes rule “A Blunt Object, Oh Robert,” with periods of silence separating the reserved verses from the overdramatic choruses quoting Robert Oppenheimer, who himself was quoting the Bhagavad Gita.

What started as a simple indie band playing a country-influenced love song transformed into a small orchestra dismantling centuries of musical evolution, and repurposing them into an amazing self-contained symphony.

In A Word: Monumental

—by Dean Scordilis, April 22, 2015

–The Aquarian Weekly - The Aquarian Weekly

"“A sumptuous set of songs… sublime.”"

Helmed by singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Adam Levine, NYC’s Mappa Mundi is as unconventional as their name implies. A mix of chamber pop and the occasional robust revelry, the six songs on this sophomore EP At Sea offer a remarkable collision of tone and texture that casts its foothold in Levine’s generally downtrodden perspective.

Somber at times, but rarely sedate, it unfolds as a series of intensely personal love songs detailing the trials and travails that accompany most romantic relationships. Levine sounds despondent throughout these circumstances, as indicated on the forlorn “Lost” in particular. Yet even though he’s given to despair, his sentiments seem to be in the right place. “If he loves you like I love you, it’s alright by me,” he insists, offering more than a hint of magnanimity on the aching break-up ballad “Right.” Nevertheless, it’s the sweeping melodies — courtesy of the nine piece ensemble that incorporates trumpet, violin, cello, harmonium and more — that take precedent here, from the emotional incantations of “A Blunt Object, Oh Robert” to the suddenly frenzy and flashpoint of “So Obscure.”

A sumptuous set of songs, At Sea is, in a word, sublime.

DOWNLOAD: “Right,” “”A Blunt Object, Oh Robert”

-Lee Zimmerman, Blurt Magazine - Blurt Magazine

"Check it Out: Mappa Mundi, "…new music with depth and relevance…""

Here at the RUST Magazine offices we’ve been listening to, and appreciating, a great new offering from NYC-based chamber-pop group Mappa Mundi. It’s a 6-song themed EP entitled At Sea, and it’s a great collection of noir compositions examining the subtleties of being lost at sea… practically or interpretively. It’s heartfelt, complex music with layers of emotion and it gets our total recommendation. It reminds us a lot of The Dowry whose album The Circus and the Sea similarly builds on vintage nautical ideas, but for Mappa Mundi the focus is on artist teamwork and taking ideas into unique spaces.

“In its earlier incarnations, Mappa Mundi experimented with a lot of the traditional elements that make up rock or chamber pop. For example, we started out playing with the idea of a rock band without guitars,” says Mappa Mundi’s creative center Adam Levine. “Walking that fine line between chamber music and rock was an interesting challenge for us at the time. Eventually when we did add guitars it opened up all of these new worlds of sound for us to explore and incorporate from rock and Americana as well as classical music.” At Sea is the band’s second EP (with guitars this time) and there’s been a good amount of development since their 2010 6-song EP, And In This Way We Come Unmoored…. “It’s hard for me to describe what Mappa Mundi sounds like because we’ve all grown and changed over the past couple of years. Where I used to say that we were chamber pop, a lot of our recent stuff has really been in the realm of alt-folk or Americana. Things are constantly changing for everyone in the band and I think right now we’re all in this really positive, growing phase.”

Sharing a name with Maroon 5’s front man can confuse people, he admits. “I remember when I was playing horn in an orchestra for this Off-Broadway show and somehow some people from Maroon 5’s fan club got wind of it and started blogging about it. I thought it was kind of funny that anybody would think that Maroon 5’s Adam Levine would be playing trumpet in the pit orchestra of an Off-Broadway show. When I told this to the producer he thought we might as well go with it and see if it brought any extra people to the show.”

Orchestra gigs aside, what Adam and Mappa Mundi does, and does very well, is to craft themed music with complexity and individuality. Together with a few misfit friends, Adam has found an admirable focus and space much like The Dowry did a few years ago. Both groups of artists have found a voice for the longing we have today by exploring themes from another time and place. And that’s what makes this music so special. It’s classic. It’s timeless and it expresses itself on it’s own terms, not catering to fads or current sounds.

If you’re thirsting for new music with depth and relevance, get more info at:

–Rust Magazine - Rust Magazine

"NYC Scene Blog, Emerging Artist Feature"

In 2010, NYC composer Adam Levine’s chamber pop brainchild Mappa Mundi released a charming six track EP (we used to call anything above four tracks “mini-albums” until a few years ago) featuring gentle songs ripe with Americana influences. After five years (spent, we guess, writing new songs and then making sense of the overwhelming number of tracks a sextet can record for each song) the project is finally releasing a sophomore EP/mini-album entitled “At Sea,” – another six track effort (lucky number?). Judging from opening track and single “So Obscure” (streaming here) the band has developed the sound in more luscious ways, refining their orchestral sound in a way that perfectly complement Levine’s intense and impassioned lirycs. The release of “At Sea” will be celebrated at Rockwood Music Hall on January 24.

–The Deli - The Deli

"“This is excellent chamber folk pop… I love the band.”"

This is excellent chamber folk pop from the heart and mind of one Adam Levine, he’s joined by a bunch of friends here (mostly on strings, cello, violin, etc. and there’s only 6 songs but all are highly listenable. Co-produced by the talented Charles Newman. Not sure about the band name but I love the band.

–Dagger ‘Zine - Dagger ‘Zine

"Song of the Day: "So Obscure" by Mappa Mundi"

Brooklyn, New York singer and songwriter Adam Levine, leader of Mappa Mundi, has no fear of sentiment. He knows that feelings need not be filtered through irony, even in the context of indie rock. On the lushly-arranged and folksy “So Obscure,” he lays his heart on the line between bathos and beauty.


"Selected for Largehearted Boy’s Daily Download"

Selected for Largehearted Boy’s Daily Download.

–Largehearted Boy - Largehearted Boy

"Mappa Mundi featured in Innocent Word’s IW10"

For the past two years, each Friday, Innocent Words has put the spotlight on up and coming artists/bands with 10 questions we like to call IW10. The tradition continues…

-Troy Michael, Innocent Words - Innocent Words

"Mappa Mundi: Wave Runner"

Not to be confused with a Medieval navigational map (but just as interesting), Mappa Mundi are playing a show at The Living Room in Brooklyn. The nine-piece band just released their sophomore EP installment, At Sea. And With five years since And In This Way We Come Unmoored, the nonet is sure to deliver some well-waited experimental folk with dashes of Adam B. Levine’s lovely voice. See the mini orchestra live March 7.

-by Jamila Aboushaca, March 3, 2015

–The Aquarian Weekly - The Aquarian Weekly

"Brooklyn Mast Interview of Adam Levine, Mappa Mundi"

I met Adam, when The Exeter Popes were looking for a trumpet player for live shows. He showed up for one rehearsal and nailed the performance. I am always amazed when musicians can pull this off. It shows complete confidence. About a year later, I was photographing a band and in walks Adam. It was a pretty funny reconnection. That same day he also gave me a cd of his own band called Mappa Mundi. I had no idea he was also a song writer and a damn good one at that. They are playing Pete’s Candy Store on March 6th.

-Stephen Lipuma, Brooklyn Mast

For full interview and artist profile: - Brooklyn Mast

"Mappa Mundi - What Have You Done?"

Brooklyn based quintet (and sometimes more) Mappa Mundi are the next in a long line of chamber pop musicians that have included The Byrds, The Divine Comedy and, to a lesser extent, Vampire Weekend. The group released their first mini-album, "And in this Way We Come Unmoored" in 2010, and have followed it up with the "Song for a Fortnight" project, in which the band record a track every 14 days and make it available to download for free.

Taken from this project is the song "What Have You Done?", which is a Beatles-esque number (right down to the title, which is taken from the song "Sexy Sadie"), which sees vocalist Adam Levine (no relation to the Maroon 5 frontman, as far as I am aware) sounding quite rather like Muse frontman Matt Bellamy. There are also shades of Rialto in the mix as well.

"What Have You Done" is available to download for free. - The Metaphorical Boat

"Interview with Adam Levine"

JBH: Something that interested me about the art you pursue is that you didn’t major in music in college. I believe your major was English. Do you feel that the two mediums, music and the written word, are quite different or pretty interchangeable in the way you want to express yourself? For instance, with a song like “Oscillate” (my fave, by the way) do you think it’d be as effective without the musical arrangement accompanying it?

ALev: I did study music in college, actually, and throughout childhood. In addition to trumpet, I studied composition, theory, and improvisation. But I majored in English. I was torn between going to conservatory and studying English. I chose to study literature and writing, but eventually, against my better judgment, I realized I was in love with music all along. I simply had no choice in the matter.

I wouldn’t say that music and writing are interchangeable at all. They’re quite different media, but that difference is what I call ‘songwriting,’ as opposed to strict composition. I have always written stories and poetry, and I just love the added dimension that music allows.

I like writers who play with the explicit versus the implicit; the said and unsaid. What I love about songwriting is that the music becomes the implicit subtext, the emotional context for the lyrics. Or it can become an ironic counterpoint to the narrative. Finding the exact right words to fit to a line of music, or vice versa, is the fun of it. “Oscillate” is actually a good example of that because the lyrics are about dichotomies: on/off, the peaks/valleys in a sound wave, being ‘in synch’ or ‘out’ of it. “Oscillate,” more than any other song is about a feeling or state that I could never describe with words alone. In fact, that’s what I love about music, and my stricter compositions often pursue that idea of subverbal (or superverbal narrative). In some ways music can be more honest than words. You can tell a story as it were, an emotional, psychological, or sensory narrative, that words simply belie. Sure, music is artificial in the way that all art is, but, to me, it often feels more “true” (or, perhaps more visceral) than words alone do.

JBH: You’re adept at a few instruments. What was the first one you learned and what is your favorite to play? (You do play a mean ukulele when necessary.)

ALev: I can’t pick a favorite! I just love making sounds and am always interested in learning how to make new ones. Piano was my first, chronologically, and I still think in terms of the piano keyboard. But the trumpet is actually my first instrument, in terms of focus. It’s the one I’ve studied officially the longest and is definitely the one to which I’m the closest. I love singing, playing ukulele, guitar, piano, etc., as well, but trumpet is my first love. That’s what I like about Chamber Pop. It encourages you to be a bit of a magpie.

JBH: What are some of your influences? And by that I mean in any medium, not just music? I know visual art has become even more of an inspiration for me these days and I think we play off other artists’ work because each can have its own way of promoting a muse within. Would you agree?

ALev: Yes! I certainly take inspiration from all sorts of media. I don’t believe an artist should try to create in a vacuum. Obviously you have to develop your own voice. But that happens after – and often in reaction to – inspiration. When I was studying jazz they told us to listen, listen, listen, and then create. All artists should be voracious consumers of art, across the spectrum, whatever interests you. If you do that (honestly, of course), eventually your own voice emerges. It’s a dialectic. A conversation.

A good example of this would be my recently posted song, “A Blunt Object, Oh Robert,” which is a response to John Adams’ opera, Dr. Atomic, about Oppenheimer, and the Manhattan Project. I love to write from inside the head of a character, and he’s such an interesting one, that I had to do my take on it. So, there’s an element of homage to John Adams, a personal hero, for sure, but it has all these other influences as well.

Musically, my influences would take too long to name. I’ve been told that Mappa Mundi needs a bibliography or at least a suggested reading list, since so many of our songs are inspired by what I’ve read, heard, or seen. I’ll skip the obligatory ones and just say that if you follow my blog, I talk a lot about my influences and inspirations from literature, art, film, and music.


JBH: You’ve traveled a bit around the world. Of all the places you’ve visited (or perhaps want to visit) where would you like to live?

ALev: That’s so hard to answer. I love Brooklyn. Every time I think I might want to leave, I discover some new corner or facet of the city and fall in love with it all over again. And I think a lot of my stu - Jennifer Baker-Henry's Blog

"Brooklyn Rocks! Finalist"

Mappa Mundi in Finals of Brooklyn Rocks! Music Festival, presented by Lo Fi Entertainment. - Lo-Fi Entertainment

"Sepiachord Song of the Day"

Music blog, Sepiachord ( chooses demo of "Mirabelle" to be its Song of the Day. - Sepiachord

"From the Desk of Bonnie Lee"

A pocketwatch. An accordion. Daguerrotypes. A unicycle. Facial hair. This is the vintage aesthetic that informs chamber pop Brooklyn band Mappa Mundi. Their sound, though, is not what you’d hear coming out of your great-grandfather’s gramophone. And unlike some local musical acts, their look and feel is not ironic, instead happy to embrace pop and rock and to swirl old sounds with new ones.

Mappa Mundi is the brainchild of Adam Levine (no, not that Adam Levine) and the latest incarnation of an ongoing project to realize some rather odd compositions he had been working on since arriving in Brooklyn. Already connected to various local music scenes, he called upon some friends in early 2008 to assemble a band: drums, upright bass, accordion, cello, violin, ukulele, trumpet. With this unexpected mixing of timbres, Mappa Mundi inaugurates its distinctive, compelling sound to the already talented and crowded Brooklyn landscape. Chamber pop, by Levine’s description, refers to pop and rock songs written and played with an ear towards chamber music. Each instrument speaks, blends, complements, and harmonizes with each other and with Levine’s voice. Their music calls to mind Radiohead mashed with Kronos Quartet, or a thinking-man’s Neutral Milk Hotel (which is already pretty cranial to begin with).

The band members come from different backgrounds and range from full-time musicians to performance newbies. Trish Palao brings a distinct indie-rock sensibility to the ukulele, while Matthew “Max” Fass (accordion) is generally recognized as the sovereign of the New York Balkan music scene. Suzanne Lipkin (violin) comes from classical and Broadway backgrounds, and Bryan Teoh blurs the line between classical and rock compositions, manipulating his cello’s natural sound with electronics, guitar pedals, and extended techniques. Mike Darnell’s background in punk, metal, and rock brings a unique approach to the upright bass and to the MM band that yields amazing results. Matt Moore (drums) is a NY rock fixture and veteran, playing in various rock bands, yet is equally at home with more math-inclined techniques.

Mappa Mundi is defined, then, by dualities and contradictions, embracing noisy rock in one moment and baroque through-composition in the next. They seek to take all that’s good and whole-grain about chamber music, post-punk, art-rock, and old-world folk and cobble it together into something fresh but that still feels like a revival of sorts, recalling the memory of a musical moment that never actually happened.

At a recent performance at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg, the strum of a ukulele peeking out intermittently between the churning of the cello and the audible exuberance of the bassist provided just one of the many ever-surprising turns in Levine’s intricate song structure, and Levine, a trumpet man by training, punctuated with fanfare from his own horn resting by his feet in between singing his sensitive and intelligent lyrics. With the exception of Levine, of course, each was playing his part off scores propped up on music stands – demonstrating again Levine’s dedication to songwriting as much as to performing (and lending the evening a school-recital feel). The band was trying out some new songs that night, and the shaky execution was understandable, even inevitable. Levine thanked the audience for our forbearance. But it also displayed their playful and inquisitive approach to their endeavor without taking it all too seriously.

Mappa Mundi is constantly extending their reach, inflecting their sound with global influences without using them fetishistically, pulling off a ukulele and an accordion without coming off as overly-earnest or twee, and exploring real and metaphorical boundaries without using their experiences touristically. “Mappa Mundi” is certainly a befitting name for a welcoming and much-welcome sound to the Brooklyn musical map but that must also navigate through fickle waters to stake a claim apart from the already-established settlements dotting the land. With the talent that’s steering this emerging act, they’re already charting unmarked territory and are likely to journey far.

Mappa Mundi performs next at CD Release Party for Hebrew School, with Julia Barry, Will Dailey, and more! on Tuesday, April 14th, 2009, 9pm at Public Assembly (formerly Galapagos), 70 North 6th Street, between Wythe and Kent, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. - Brooklyn Examiner

"Mappa Mundi Nominated for Best of NYC, Emerging Artists"

Almost a year ago exactly, New York chamber pop six-piece released ‘At Sea,’ which is more of a sonic novella than a traditional EP. On such wistful, guitar-strummed songs and horn-sloped tracks such as “So Obscure” and “Mirabelle” (streaming below), the Adam B Levine-led band imbued poignant scenes of love and loss with a literary purity that was not only impressive in its vividness but preciously moving in its effect. Mappa Mundi plays Pete’s Candy Store on 2/5.

–The Deli - The Deli

"Mappa Mundi Named One of The Deli Magazine’s Best Emerging Artists for 2016"

A full five years stood between Mappa Mundi’s debut album and its second: 2015’s At Sea. It was worth it. The entire affair overflows with emotion and epigram, meted out in equal parts, and underscored by a mass of steampunk horns and strings. Indeed, no word is too ornamental here—just keep your thesaurus nearby.

–-Brian Chidester, The Deli Magazine - The Deli Magazine



Mappa Mundi was founded by composer/multi-instrumentalist/singer Adam Levine. Adam washed up on Brooklyn's verdant shore one day, determined to create a new kind of band combining his sundry, far-flung influences. These included folk, Americana, noisy art rock, and classical/contemporary chamber music. Now what initially started as a mad, eclectic experiment has since evolved into something uniquely organic.

It's impossible to view Mappa Mundi in the light of any single influence. Sweet chamber pop meets reedy, bombastic Americana. Jangly folk strumming is punctuated by jagged snarls of electric guitar. Intensely introspective story-songs are belied by steely delivery and Sturm und Drang orchestration. The lush harmonies and broad, sweeping melodies of Romanticism blend with the cascading repetition and interwoven patterns of Minimalism.

Adam formed Mappa Mundi in 2009 by gathering a group of like-minded misfits: talented musicians who were bored by the stuffy old bonds of traditional genres like “rock” or “classical.” They workshopped the project in venues around New York, tinkering with instrumentation, arrangement, and sound through 2011, when they recorded their first EP, And in this Way We Come Unmoored…. Along the way they've been featured at Brooklyn's Northside, Infringement, and Prospect Heights Music Festivals and praised in music blogs The Metaphorical Boat and Sepiachord (amongst others). Now, besides Adam (Voice, Trumpet, Ukulele, Composition/Songwriting), MM's motley band of musical castaways includes Jason Sagebiel, a classically trained guitarist and composer whose own work blends Americana, Rock, and Persian music. Violinist Suzanne Lipkin also brings classical orchestral training as well as experience in chamber pop and musical theater. Bassist Mike Darnell's background ranges from dark folk to goth and punk. Accordionist/harmoniumist Richard Exelbert's work as Maharadjah Sweets blends blues, Americana, and lo-fi electronica. And finally, drummer Matt Moore rounds everything out with rock, jazz, and theatrical experience.

Their new EP, At Sea (January 27th, 2015), was recorded and produced by Adam Levine and Charles Newman of Motherwest Studios (The Magnetic Fields, Cold Blood Club, Aloud). Its title comes from the old nautical term for being lost without bearings, with no sign of land, and each of its six songs explores variations on this theme.

Mappa Mundi has big plans for their unique brand of chamber pop. On the horizon is a full length album of new material as well as a musical entitled Rocket Opera. For a band navigating with such a wide-ranging map, Mappa Mundi's course is clearly set.

Band Members