Review: Map 165 – The Fatigue Of Sunlight And Wine

It feels strange to be immersed in The Fatigue Of Sunlight And Wine during a particularly bitter evening November, shut away in my bedroom with tea close at hand and a strong incense thickening in the air. Surely the mood is all wrong. How can the album’s core scenario manifest – of “lying in the sun after a particularly liquid lunch, being absorbed into the light and the colour”, as Map 165’s Tim Hooper puts it – when its illusionary atmosphere must combat against the polar opposite as it exists in the real world, of an immobilizing and invasive winter cold?

Those that have actually experienced fatigue as induced by sunlight and wine will perhaps agree that it’s a particularly potent experience, and even in my current situation, makes for an extremely vivid recollection. A “pleasing oppression” as Martin A. Smith puts it; the sense of being enveloped by warmth and bliss, most commonly associated with summer holiday escapes to places of embracing heat and minimal day-to-day activity. So strongly is this sensation conjured by Map 165’s debut album that the time of year suddenly seems irrelevant – The Fatigue Of Sunlight And Wine wafts out of my speakers like a heater up full blast, clamming the cold air with a gooey warmth and radiance.

The album was recorded in Tarascon in Southern France, and just as with Smith’s solo album Salt (which was inspired by the salt plains of the Camargue), the music evokes its distinctive sense of place through a combination of field recordings and the more explicitly musical elements. Guitars and keyboards drift gently across and within the sounds of Tarascon’s marketplaces and hilltops, with serene melodies dragged softly through the scorched fields and stony streets. The two are beautifully merged – field recordings provide the distinctive shapes of the commune’s people and activities, while the blotches of electronics and bright bursts of guitar cast these scenarios into glorious, beaming colour. Place and mood are thus beautifully married, with the listener immersed in both Tarascon and the tipsy, heavy heat that goes with it.