Exposé Online banner

Schooltree — Heterotopia
(Bandcamp no#, 2017, 2CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2017-03-27

Heterotopia Cover art

There are some who would have you believe that rock music is just entertainment, and that any attempts to make it “art” are pretentious and worthy of scorn. I am not one of those — I see no reason why it’s even a question, as there’s no reason music can’t be both entertaining and artistic at the same time. After all, there’s a reason we call them “artists.” And the highest artistic expression of rock music as art may well be the concept album. If someone says that the heyday of the concept album came and went decades ago, they just haven’t been paying attention. Artists ranging from Dream Theater to Green Day to Kanye West have tossed their hats into the ring, and Boston’s Schooltree is an example of an independent artist having a go. The band was formed by singer / keyboard player Lainey Schooltree, and has been going for a few years now. For the third album under the Schooltree name (the second to feature a full band), they have produced a full-fledged double-CD rock opera built around the story of Suzi, an aimless underachiever who cares about nothing and no one, who journeys through spectral landscapes on a journey to find meaning in life. There are superficial similarities in the story with The Lamb Lies down on Broadway and Quadrophenia, and maybe even a touch of Ziggy Stardust, as regarded through a lens of the prototypical Hero’s Journey, though musically it’s all Schooltree. The leader’s keyboards and vocals are the dominant factor in a style that’s best characterized as Art Rock. Which in this case means that while the overall idea may be high-concept, the music is fairly down-to-earth, with individual songs that work perfectly well on their own and don’t venture much longer than five minutes each. I may be imagining things here, but one way I could characterize the music is Elton John at his most sophisticated (say Goodbye Yellow Brick Road) infused with a bit of Tori Amos (Boys for Pele) or Kate Bush (Never for Ever) and some semi-progressive rock like Saga in their early days. Piano is the dominant keyboard, with organ, electric piano, and synthesizers making appearances, and there’s no doubt that Lainey is a skilled player, and mercifully not prone to showing off. Given the rock opera format, you might expect multiple singers for the parts, but she handles all the parts herself, with treatments and effects used to differentiate the viewpoints. The backing band consists of guitars (Brendan Burns), bass (Derek van Wormer), drums (Tom Collins), additional keyboards (Peter Danilchuk), and acoustic guitar and more keys (Peter Moore). Aside from a couple of tasty guitar solos, the other players are more support than spotlight, and the arrangements themselves are the highlight. The compositions strike a perfect balance between maintaining thematic consistency and providing enough variety to hold the listener’s interest. Taken individually, all of the songs are interesting and enjoyable, and taken as a whole, Heterotopia is a considerable achievement, worthy of notice outside of the band’s hometown, and a notch or two above any number of overblown prog epics from recent years that I could name.


Filed under: New releases, 2017 releases

Related artist(s): Schooltree

More info
http://schooltree.bandcamp.com/album/heterotopia

Latest news

2019-06-05
Legendary Co-Founder of The 13th Floor Elevators Passes Away at Age 71 – Sadly, Roky Erickson passed away on May 31, 2019. Known as the father of psychedelic music and co-founder of the ground breaking 13th Floor Elevators, Roky had a profound influence on music from the 60s to today. Plagued by his own personal demons, Roky had a difficult life and is now free of these burdens. » Read more

2019-04-24
Help MoonJune Bring Great Music to Life – Like many music lovers around the world, we’ve been thrilled and amazed to hear the recordings that have been released by MoonJune from sessions at La Casa Murada in Spain. Such label stalwarts as Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, Asaf Sirkis, Tony Levin, Dusan Jevtovic, Vasil Hadzimanov, and many more have gathered in various combinations at the studio to produce some of the most creative music in recent years. Now, label head Leonardo Pavkovic is offering a compilation, La Casa Murada - MoonJune Sessions, Volume One, as a fundraiser for upcoming sessions. » Read more

2019-04-10
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more

2019-03-25
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Angel'in Heavy Syrup - III – Angel’in Heavy Syrup are a four piece band from Japan. The group is composed of Mineko Itakura on bass and vocals, Mine Nakao on guitar and vocals, Fuseo Toda on guitar and chimes, and Tomoko...  (1996) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues