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- Soft Focus by School House
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School House is a solo project of UK composer Peter James Taylor, who usually composes pieces for multiple guitars that often draw comparison with Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham. This rather beguiling tape captures Taylor in a more intimate but no less mysterious setting. The music was apparently made using ‘custom made stringed instrumentation’, peppered here and there with sine tones and field recordings. The natural acoustics of the 14th century schoolhouse where the tracks were recorded give the album much of its chamber like quality, enhancing the subtle complexity of the music.
The music itself is difficult to describe, strangely metallic yet rounded microtonal chords ring out, sometimes in a rhythmic sequence or sustained in a shimmering drone. While it's clear that an electric guitar or zither-like instrument of some kind is generating most of the music, the unusual microtonal clusters of notes or perhaps some signal processing produces a sound that is just as often reminiscent of a gamelan orchestra or a steel drum band, albeit ones that don’t play any traditional tunes. There is a great use of space and tension, the playing seems relaxed and exploratory and ranges from stark to ecstatic on the intensityometer.
But the thing that keeps drawing me back to this is the mysterious atmosphere the music evokes, a kind of contemplative wonder. There’s even a couple of bits that make me laugh, like my favourite piece here, ‘My Friend’ which closes side 1, with its bizarre groove and mumbled vocals sounding like Jandek cloned using a 3D printer.
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