The Africa Chamber


This is the third album by Mapstation. Since 2001, Stefan Schneider has been working under this moniker. Nevertheless, this new release marks a premiere for the Dusseldorf-based artist: it is the first album produced by Schneider himself. Delving deeper into the sounds and subjects already explored on his previous outings, Map Of Africa (2002) and Loin D'Afrique (2006), this record expands on Mapstation's tentative love and study of the African continent. Like his earlier aural collages, The Africa Chamber treats this region not only as a geographic location, but also as a symbol of unknown terrain, of distant shores awaiting our exploration. Unfettered by the fetish of authenticity, but rather bolstered by various encounters on neutral, diasporic grounds like European Internet cafes ("Unitel"), African beauty parlors ("The Protector") or folkloristic kitsch figurines ("Return Of The Hunter"), Schneider prefers an associative approach to music. His Africa Chamber becomes a fanciful wunderkammer of would-be African sounds. In this spirit, the album retraces the subconscious cultural amalgamations that shape our contemporary mainstream culture and reciprocal influences, from the digital replication and recreation of jungle ambience for the Antwerp Zoo ("Nocturama") to the illustrated Swedish porcelain gracing the cover, heavily influenced by African art. In a fitting twist, Schneider's inimitable Mapstation sound, conjuring up broad and expansive soundscapes from a bare minimum of synthesizer arpeggiator, has started to incorporate more and more analog percussion for a coarser, less predictably-textured sound. Amplifiers are miked up. Distortion, overamplification and feedback claim their rightful space. Besides a plethora of percussive hollow-ware like vases or pitchers and prepared piano passages -- recorded in the studio of Dusseldorf-based pianist and composer Volker Bertelmann aka Hauschka -- the album relies mainly on digital synths, reawakened and injected with new warmth. Continuing his tradition of collaboration, Schneider also invited an eclectic range of master musicians to join him on this sonic journey. Annie Whitehead, on-stage staple of Robert Wyatt, Afrika Express/Damon Albarn or James Blood Ulmer and a welcome addition to Schneider's previous album, fleshed out two tracks with her spellbinding trombone. Nicholas Addo-Nettey also contributes percussion (he played alongside Tony Allen for the seminal Fela Kuti Band in the 1970s). Drummer Thomas Klein (Kreidler) completes Mapstation's trio of collaborators.