May Your Heart Be the Map
ne result of a habitual obsession with music is the way in which records will inexorably become linked to seasons, weeks, and days past. They may draw closer still, attaching themselves to the memory of a specific moment to the very second. The event itself will often dominate the forefront, with details such as weather patterns and clothing providing some faded background color. In this way, an album or track first heard during a milestone experience will forever refer back to it—passing an exam, falling in love, whatever it may be.
It’s perhaps a little rarer to come across a disc which subverts this process; one which creates its own abstract past from the first note, and teases it out to mingle with a universal, romanticized sense of eternal summer. One in which the holidays never end, there’re always enough players on hand for a game of cricket, and nobody needs to worry about getting skin cancer. Unsurprisingly, given the build-up, May Your Heart Be The Map is an album of this kind.
To an extent this is the result of pre-conditioning. The cover photography depicts the dense foliage of flourishing trees, partially penetrated by the bright light of morning. On the reverse, pale blue sky provides a canopy for the tower of a church. When the booklet offers a spread of frosty vegetation and the tracklisting insists “we left our homes for winter,” it already feels more like a reminder of where we’ve come from to reach this place—or where we’ve yet to tread. There may also be a touch of projecting on my part, in light of Britain’s current meteorological situation. The country is emerging from a catastrophic damp, but flourishing with late sunshine.
Nonetheless, in utilizing picked guitars which sound like dappled waves of light reflecting through leaves, and employing light drones to mirror the drifting, patchwork cloud cover of an otherwise empty sky, only one season is repeatedly brought to mind. Of course, it’s also one which does not—which cannot—really exist. More accurately, it’s simply the idea of summer. The Platonic form of unhurried lazing on the grass, watching a soft breeze tickle the plants and listening to the distant rhythm of a lawnmower. Dreadfully bourgeois, but utterly serene.
Once this connection is made, it’s difficult to shake. Every scratchy, lo-fi field recording is the gentle buzz of an insect. Each soft chime or pulse begins to represent stars in the clear, evening heavens. Percussion merges with the rustle of material against plant life as figures make their way along a remote coastline trail. These are unified elements, combining to produce a languid haze—like the gradual process of awakening when the final remnants of sleep have not yet been cast off. The temperate heat of the morning passes through the gap in the curtains and another ten minutes in bed feels like bliss.
Yet there is melancholy amidst the calm. A sadness that these images must eventually fade—indeed, are immediately fading, even as they are created. Responsibility will intrude, shattering the illusion of endless carefree hours. The realities of summer, the sweat, discomfort, and sunburn, can only be kept at bay for so long. While it lasts however, this quiet, instrumental escapism (save for the occasional soothing interjections from July Skies’ Anthony Harding) of hearts and lanes, of trees and balloonists, is dreamily beautiful. It exists in the magnificent half-light of early June; the period before dark where the day clings on, refusing to submit to nature’s unavoidable cycle. It ebbs away gradually, all the while hoping that the sun will never set.