Innova have filed this album under 'Ambient',
'Audiophile', 'Homemade instruments',
'New Age' and 'Singer-songwriter', and it is
bits of all those things - but also of others.
To begin with, it is vinyl. Though available as a digital download, in
physical form the album comes only in the quaint/trendy shape of a 12"
45rpm 'EP'. This presumably accounts for the next thing it is:
ludicrously short. Yet its being a retro artefact does not explain the
standard-high retail price that will surely diminish its appeal.
The album is also of a quasi-minimalist cut. This is evident even in the
design: there are no accompanying notes as such, not even in the digital
'liner' downloadable from Innova's website - a single
line, "Thanks to Joe Johnson, Claire Tiller, the innova team and all
our friends", is all it yields beyond the usual credits. No hints are
given as to what roles the five listed performers play, although Grant
Cutler is acknowledged elsewhere as vocalist.
The bare-bones approach naturally spills over into the music: this is in
fact a collection of simple, pretty minimalist melodies and short riffs laid
arty-fartily over New-Age-style synthetic tones, environmental sounds and
tampered-with mixer controls. The three Songs ('1',
'2', '3') offer some folk-poppy overdubbed
singing, in tune but not exactly tuneful, amplified but not always clear,
each word having individual but not necessarily collective sense. With each
track segueing into the next, this is ambient music, and the ambience is one
of meditative mellowness.
The title, for what it's worth, is that of an Irish folk ballad
written by Ewan MacColl about fifty years ago, and worked over by Campbell
and Cutler. They have not "added to or fleshed out the original so much
as zoomed in so close we're practically inside the song's
heart, watching the world from inside a sepia-tinted diorama." So it
Innova write that Cutler "has been a member of Lookbook [and] Grant
Cutler and the Gorgeous Lords" - this will presumably mean something to
someone. His "delicate, birdsong-encircled vocals" here are in any
case decidedly middling, despite the complete lack of technical demands the
music makes. As for Campbell, he is a self-described
'sound-artist' who can make interesting, if not compelling,
music - his earlier 'Sound the All-Clear' album on Innova a
good example (review
). 'Schooldays Over' is not
even half as good as that: at best it is a well-produced album that
communicates what little it has to say in a way that will satisfy those
inexplicably intrigued by New-Age-type trifle. Still, there has always been
a decent-sized market for this kind of stuff - a number of reviews across
the internet have already been astonishingly enthusiastic.
Contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk