Chris Campbell / Grant Cutler – Schooldays Over – Innova (45 rpm vinyl)

by | Aug 20, 2013 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Chris Campbell / Grant Cutler – Schooldays Over [TrackList follows] – Innova 45 rpm 12-inch vinyl #862 [Distr. by Naxos] **:

I was immediately attracted to this vinyl seeing it was 45 rpm speed instead of 33⅓. Then I noticed it was from Innova and realized it would probably be a bit more avant than my taste. There are no notes at all with the album, though there is a card to download a digital version. And no printed lyrics for the songs since I was unable to understand what was being sung. The label’s own description of the album is “Grant Cutler and Chris take their folksong to outer space.”  I not only didn’t know they had a folksong, I didn’t know of them at all.

Under Genre: the label lists ambient, audiophile, homemade instruments, new age, and singer-songwriter. The two musicians are aided on the album by Michelle Kinney, Jacqueline Ultan and Joey Van Phillips, but there is no indication of what these musicians do.

The album is built around the Irish folk ballad ”Schooldays Over,” by Ewan MacColl, which tells about an Irish life that leads directly from the schoolhouse to the backbreaking labor of the mines. Campbell and Cutler use this folksong as the thread that ties together their 20½ minute suite of seven sections (ten minutes each side of the vinyl). Some of the sounds are very subtle wooden sounds such as the creak of a door or bench. The music unfolds slowly with lots of echoes and reverberations; there are piano, strings, glockenspiel, marimba, koto, plus electronics tones and sounds.  Cutler eventually delivers MacColl’s song in an off-mic style, with birdsong mixed in. The idea is to create a meditation on the fleeting nature of time, and on questions of duty, work and leisure. The increased clarity of the 45 rpm pressing probably aids the very subtle sounds on this album.

Well, that may well be communicated to some listeners to this album, but I’m afraid not to me. I see it as perhaps the first 12-inch 45 rpm most young people would come across, and the musicians hoping that alone would help sell the album. Also, a strong immersement in folksong would help; that’s not me either I’m afraid. And what the heck are “balloon bassoons”?

TrackList:  1. Piano, cellos, glockenspiel; 2. Song 1; 3. Marimba, synths, piano; 4. Pump organ, gongs, balloon bassoons; 5. Song 2; 6. Cello bath, koto; 7. Song 3

—John Henry

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