Music Reviews

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Artist: Chris Campbell and Grant Cutler (@)
Title: Schooldays Over
Format: 12"
Label: Innova (@)
Rated: *****
'School Day's Over' is an Irish folk song about working in the mines, and Chris Campbell and Grant Cutler seem to take this as the jumping off point for this album. On the website for the project, they state that 'As we worked, it became clear that the heart of the tune was more about psychological exploration, almost a diorama or snowglobe to look inside. . . . Ultimately we wanted to craft a landscape that the listener could enter into to. We extended certain parts, elongated certain feelings and then always brought it back to the anchor of the words. Out there in this big landscape are these islands, these places that move the narrative forward, where the verses rise up, what we call 'Song 1' and 'Song 2.'' The label describes the album in one sentence: 'Grant Cutler and Chris take their folksong to outer space.' I suppose that's as good a description as any. If I had to describe this in a few words, I would describe this as melancholy and contemplative. The title, 'Schooldays Over' evokes a kind of uncertain transition where one must move forward, but with no clear vision of where. The music likewise evokes these kinds of feelings, opening with 'Piano, Cellos, Glockenspiel,' a peaceful composition featuring droning strings and sparse piano that almost sounds like a warmup for the next song. 'Song 1' lays down some sparse ambience and reverbed vocals reminiscent of This Mortal Coil before giving way to an interesting duet of piano and marimba that continues into the next track, 'Marimba, Synths, Piano'. As the piano and marimba continue, the synth comes in and gains increasing prominence. Up until now, it the music has been rather sedate and calming, but 'Pump Organ, Gongs, Balloon Bassoons' changes all of that by kicking in with a pipe organ at full force. However, even this becomes more subdued and shifts into 'Song 2,' which has the same formula as 'Song 1,' with its reverbed vocals and mellow ambience that bleeds into 'Cello Bath, Koto,' which keeps the ambience going with just a hint of dissonance. 'Song 3' brings it all together with similar vocals with the refrain 'it's time you were on your way' and fuller instrumentation than the other two 'songs.' Overall this is the kind of music that makes even a sunny day feel like a cold, fall day with the rain drizzling softly outside. Well done dreamlike music. This album weighs in at around 21 minutes.

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