Press for Kid Icarus - Maps Of The Saints

mundanesounds.com review by Joseph Kyle

"I've never bought into the notion of 'outsider art'. It's a bit too insulting, too snooty, too much of a 'well, this art isn't made by people like us, the realartist' vibe. Let's not even address the issue that it's terribly patronizing. Isn't the production of art enough of a qualification to be deemed an artist? Though the term's one that's used for the more formal art/painting world, it's one that's been applied to the music world by default. Artists like Daniel Johnston, Jad Fair, the Shaggs or the Kids Of Whitney High might be considered 'outsider musicians' because they made music that's too weird for most listeners, but that doesn't make them less of an artist.

Kid Icarus is band led by Eric Schlittler, a young man who's obviously inspired by one particularly renowned 'outsider artist', Jandek. Maps of the Saints was their debut record, released back in 1999, but has been reissued because of increased interest in the band. Remixed and remastered and trimmed down to a brief 45 minutes, Maps of the Saints is very much a debut record; it's rough and slippery and loose and all of those things that would normally be complaints. Lo-fi doesn't always make a record less good; sometimes the lower-quality fidelity makes for more interesting music, and that's certainly the case with Kid Icarus.

I can't tell you what it is, but there's a magical spark to Kid Icarus' music, one that draws me in and makes me smile. In between the poorly-recorded rockers--which, on songs like "Women In Films" and "Laughing Skeletons," actually transcend the messy mixing--and the odd ballads like "Ice Queen," "Your Photograph" or "Kafka Song" is the bright spark of optimism, a big smile, and the realization that Schlittler is having a good time and is utterly sincere. Though Schlittler isn't really upsetting the house that Guided By Voices built--there's the obvious influence--he is decorating it quite nicely with hints of the Beatles, Daniel Johnston and Half Japanese, and I even hear a bit of Camper Van Beethoven on here, too.

Some might be frustrated by Maps of the Saints, and I'd like to think that Schlittler and company have grown tremendously since this record. There's nothing more magical about those magical debut records, and Maps of the Saints is a nice, albeit typical, bedroom record. Kid Icarus makes me smile in that weird little way, and that's enough evidence for me to say that this is a worthy record."

Scram #19 review

Originally issued in 1999 on cassette and CD-R, Kid Icarus' debut is a nervous DIY pop mood piece, walls of fizzy guitar framing cracked harmonies, muttering ghost voices and a somewhat terrifying version of the Bee Gees' “Holiday.”

fakejazz.com review by Joseph Penczak

"Fucked-up, lo-fi, loner folk from the backwoods of Moscow... Pennsylvania, that is. Icarus is the pseudonym of one Eric Schlittler (who can blame him for operating under an assumed name!?), who damages guitars, vocals, harmonicas, organs, and assorted percussive instruments on these 14 tracks that range from vintage (i.e., sloppy, mondo-distorto) Guided By Voices on "Laughing Skeletons" to the surprisingly sweet tale of the "Firecracker Girls," including the way-psychedelic tabla pounding of Psychatrone Rhonedakk. The two-chord wonder of "Bicycle Spokes" is so childishly simple, that even you could hop up on stage and accompany "the Kid." There's even a whacked-out, phased, backwards guitar solo at the end to make sure your brain is suitably fried so you won't be nervous in front of those, oh, five or six people in the audience.

There's also a degree of the wistful wackiness of an Anton Barbeau (see King of Missouri and Guladong) on tracks like "Matchsticks Dance," "Women In Films," and "Your Photograph." Elsewhere, the Kid accompanies himself on organ for the beautifully melodic "Ice Queen," and, while he mercilessly butchers the Bee Gees "Holiday," I give him extra credit for understanding what beautiful pop craftsmen they were before they unleashed disco on the world. However, just when you think there's hope for the old kid after all, he unleashes the unlistenable sonic sludge of "Bells & Whistles," revealing the true colors of his preference for lo-fi, boombox recordings.

Of course this whole mess will best be appreciated (understood, even) by suitably like-minded deranged individuals whose musical library consists of the collected works of Guided By Voices, Jandek (a major influence to the degree that Icarus organized the Jandek tribute album, Naked In The Afternoon, and released it on his Summersteps imprint), fellow Pennsylvanian loony Brother J.T., and Daniel Johnston. However, that doesn't rule out frat boys looking for a few laughs or the oddball wise guy looking to spice up the backyard barbecue from tossing this on and joining in on the raucous fun."

All Music Guide Review by John D. Luerssen

Recorded back in 1998 and 1999, Maps of the Saints actually wound up following Kid Icarus' first proper album, 2002's Be My Echo. Tracked in Eric Schlittler's bedroom, this one-man band named after an antiquated Nintendo game reveals a number of influences in its infancy, including obvious touchstones like the Beatles and Robyn Hitchcock. Still, Schlittler's biggest musical devotion is to Guided by Voices, as the charming lo-fi vibe of both "Laughing Skeletons" and "Bicycle Spokes" affirm. Edgy and flooded with distortion, the latter sounds derived from GBV's "Kicker of Elves." Elsewhere, Kid Icarus is a gifted purveyor of acoustic-based rock, be it top-notch ballads like "Firecracker Girls" or the echoed, four-track trickery of "Matchsticks Dance." Closing out Maps of the Saints with "Pieces on a Board," Schlittler merges his acoustic and electric leanings with excellent results.

30music.com review by Brian Hoscheit

"What is mapped out here for the listener to behold is a reissue of Pennsylvania native, Eric Schlittler’s, earlier works. What was originally recorded onto cassette and CD-R four years ago and self-released is now remastered and officially released on his label Summersteps. It is edited to a more listener-friendly length while still maintaining the original ambience of the lo-fi recording and instrumental arrangement.

The cover art and the production elicit thoughts of a more abstract mind in relation to the sound. There is a fine and diverse blending of the music, sparking influence everywhere from the Beach Boys, to the Bee Gees, to Velvet Undergound. The lyrics reveal such themes as heartbreak and alienation amongst contemporaries - it’s the absence of a conventional band that makes the themes sounder. Schlittler was experiencing a deep sense of anxiety from changes in friendships which is a main aspect that fuels his artistic creation.

For the most part, everything here has a fluid and cohesive balance similar to college rock artists like Guided by Voices and Sebadoh. “Laughing Skeletons” is one of only two tracks that have drums, but the raw and angular element of the Kid Icarus sound is seemingly intensified. Minimal percussion, a dissonant conversation, and birds all appear as ambient structures to some tracks. Maps of the Saints, both decisively and despairingly, ends with the feedback-layered commentary track, “Pieces On a Board.”

Overall there is a deep emotional sense of lyrical empathy with such “indoor” artists as Jandek; Schlittler even recently headed and released a tribute for him. While serving as Schlittler’s own think piece, there still is some collaboration amongst a community of friends and musicians. This project serves as a good balance between broken-up thoughts and concrete themes and displays a fair amount of artistic dynamics"

Evilsponge.org review by Mr. Pharmacist

"There’s something magical in that rickety, lo-fi sound. Maybe it’s the intimacy of almost eavesdropping on the sock-strewn bedroom where the songs were dreamed up. Maybe it brings us all closer to vicariously sharing the dream of making music that’s personal. It could just be that, for many of us, the listening to and/or making of music is the closest we come to sharing and experiencing the things we really feel. Don’t get me wrong, this re-released Kid Icarus recording ain’t four-track fuzzy or muffled like a guy singing under cardboard. Still, while nobody’s going to confuse the Kid with E.L.O., Map of the Saints has a worn, comfortable feel only non-produced, often four-track basement-born music provides.

And comfortable it should be. First conceived in 1998 and 1999 by one-man band Eric Schlittler (say that five times fast!) and originally released in 1999, this version of Maps of the Saints is released on Summersteps Records and includes fourteen tunes or near-tunes of stylistic variety and varied influence. Now pared down to forty-five instead of its original sixty minutes, these songs have been worn in. In fact, a few mistakes or false starts are left in to help.

Diving into the thing, the variety is most notable. I’m left with a real Guided By Voices feel with its adherence to scruffy song structure and idiosyncratic lyrics. A sixties psychedelic vibe is present, too. Also, Mr. Schlittler has a few bands on the Flying Nun label in his record collection, I’d wager.

Melodies, often of the fragile sort, try their best to find a home in your head. Minimal musicianship, often with Schlittler on acoustic guitar, distortion and a little feedback either help or hinder the home-making. It’s often drumless, with an extra guitar and, as spice, a duet or two with the woman who drew the album cover. Some birds make an appearance on one tune. Lyrically, songs seem to focus on the time-honored subject of relationships, experiences about which only Schlittler really knows for sure and, on one occasion, reading Kafka.

Probably, the album’s greatest strengths lie in the composition and textures Schlittler weaves together. His use of dissonance adds an emotional depth and tension. Clearly, Schlittler has spent many a night on the bedroom floor listening and losing himself in music. He brings the fruits of that experience into the music he makes. The final track, called Pieces on a Board, is a good example of what he does so right. The melody is newborn and struggling to live. The guitar has a weary fuzz to it. The song closes with the whole thing breaking down. There’s a drama to things like this that invites the listener to insert the tragedy of his choice and feel.

What weaknesses there are to be found in Maps of the Saints depend largely on one’s tolerance for the genre in which Schlittler thrives. There’s no small sense of underachievement in songs that feel like one-takes that may have been spontaneously created in the moment. A little self indulgence, at least in the often overly self-referential, can be a put-off for some. Others might find that what appears quaint and intimate to one discriminating listener is unbearably amateurish to another. Melodies that threaten to unravel or are ephemeral might also trouble a listener or two, mainly because the unpolished and unwashed are too often ignored or avoided before their charms are allowed to show through.

Quibbles or prejudices aside, as an album, Maps of the Saints is well worth seeking out and experiencing repeatedly. Schlittler has an innate sense of song craft, a good compositional sense, and a mighty fine record collection. Heck, the back of the album mentions Captain Beefheart and Keiji Haino. With that kind of musical taste, this guy should be President.