Track-by-track: Mappe Of

Canadian avant-garde folk artist, Mappe Of – a moniker for Tom Meikle – released his fantastical sophomore album, ‘The Isle of Ailynn’ last month. 

Whilst it may be a dreamworld, with track titles that feasibly could’ve come straight from a Tolkien book, ‘Kintail’, ‘Thessalon’, and ‘Unkno’, the blight of the real world still infects Meikle’s ‘The Isle of Ailynn.’ As Meikle says himself, the creation of this fantasy world allowed him to “exaggerate and extrapolate the questions I’d been asking myself about the world over the past couple of years”.   ‘The Isle of Ailynn’ affirms that sometimes you need to go somewhere make-believe to feel what’s real. 

Mappe Of exclusively explains each track for us below:

Estuary 

This was one of those moments in writing something where its placement on the record was immediately clear. The fictional landscapes established themselves very early on in the process, and the image of emerging in this small body of water surrounded by strange flora and fauna made this the obvious narrative and conceptual entry point to the record. The field recording intro is something label-mate Canadian neo-classical composer Jonathan Kawchuk put together when I asked him to make me feel like I was underwater. 

Ailynn 

This was that track that had me (figuratively) banging my head against the wall. I think I made 9 different versions. Zach Cockburn (drummer) and Rowan Grice (multi-instrumentalist) put together this drum beat for an earlier version of it, and I loved it so much I looped it and made it most of the song. Narratively, the song centres around an explorer who discovers an ancient archive full of history in a fallen city’s ruins. 

Kintail 

Kintail brings us into a dark enchanted forest. The drum breakdown section is all (drummer) Zach Cockburn and (flautist) Amanda Lowry. I had this sort of spooky diminished organ chord progression, and he gave it this huge energy shift. Then enter Amanda, pulling out these insane extended flute techniques over it. They both just dove head-first into the conceptual thinking I was trying to encourage. That was one of the most fun moments of the recording sessions. 

Thessalon 

I wanted to tell a story about the choices people have to make when their beliefs and their livelihood conflict. Someone in love with the natural world seeing the consequences of greed in the form of smoke looming over the mountains, with a sibling who sees things differently despite their mutual experience. It was important for me to explore this kind of story, one that felt ultimately inconsequential in the grand scheme, but so vital for this family. 

Unkno 

This one formed as this alien, ambiguous piece, but eventually found this more emotional identity as the story became more nuanced. It follows an expedition from the mainland setting sailing to a mysterious island, where they discover something far beyond their expectations. I’d been reading about the expeditions of the Royal Geographical Society and it had me thinking a lot about the mindset of those explorers and the effects of their expeditions on the world, for better or for worse. 

Volcae 

At its core, this is a story about a man and his daughter dealing with the mental degradation of the mother as a result of their village’s suffering. They just happen to be a cave-dwelling people invulnerable to heat. I wanted to be inside the caves with these people while the volcanoes and conflict raged outside, until the end where we step out and chaos reigns. We tracked the piano and vocal live off the floor to try to pull out something particularly organic.

Icovellavna 

This opening is actually the first melody I wrote for this record. On this one I explore the same situation from three different characters, which (sort of) explains the length. This was really interesting way to try to understand multiple perspectives. This is one where (flautist) Amanda Lowry absolutely shines. Initially her solo section was meant to be an ambient soundscape, but when she let loose over it, the entire identity of the part shifted. I’m still blown away every time I hear it.

Estuary II 

After the journey of Icovellavna I knew there had to be a settling moment before the finale, and it had to hearken back to the beginning. This is something I’ve always loved in records, a recapitulation. It’s this more driving but intimate return to the same harmonic space and chord progression of Estuary. Also just an excuse for me to just shut up and play guitar and let Yolande Laroche’s clarinets do the singing. 

Faesulae 

I wanted to be intentional with the creation of a specific space and motion at the beginning of this track, which is where some field recordings (album designer) Connory Ballantyne and I captured and a strange technological glitch we caught with (engineer) Nyles Spencer at Bathouse came in. As with any journey of this nature, ‘Faesulae’ had to have a sense of return, but also incompletion, as though there are more secrets to uncover in this vast world and beyond.

The Isle of Ailynn is out now on Paper Bag Records

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