School House is the lo-fi solo guise of Peter J Taylor, a British composer whose work primary focuses on multiple guitar compositions, focusing on extended techniques, custom tunings and adaptive notation to explore the harmonies of micro-tonal change in overtones. Stretching his ensemble pieces to include upwards of 26 axes, Taylor’s work has gained steady renown across Europe and comparisons to the likes of Rhys Chatham and Glenn Branca. On Soft Focus, Taylor boils the main components of his compositional concerns down to two long form solo excursions of gaseous bliss ambience. Written and recorded in a converted 14th century schoolhouse during the winter 2013, ‘Soft Focus’ displays subtle Reich-ian rhythmic patterns in large arching movements; sine tones and detailed field recordings undulating in and out of a focus in a constantly weaving and blossoming atmosphere. Using custom made stringed instrumentation designed by Taylor and master Luther Yuri Landman, the chamber like qualities of these electroacoustic experiments is gorgeously embellished by the natural reverb of the recording environment; a canvas on which half remember melodies and crystalline sonics meld and combine with equal tension and serenity.
released June 24, 2014
"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."
JIM, NORMAN RECORDS
"Schoolhouse is the project of guitar composer, Peter James Taylor, very much a British student of the Branca/Chatham contingent, albeit with a stronger focus on the micro-tonal. Although Taylor has indeed composed noisy epics for large ensembles, Soft Focus is subtle, gentle, and quiet. Schoolhouse is very much the child of its environment, recorded in an eponymous 14th century schoolhouse in Linford wood, and often captured with intimate, wooden-floored, natural reverb-realism. Taylor weaves droning strings with very spare tones and recordings from other sources, to create undulating, shimmering sheets of sound, that interlock and interact forming (as he himself cites) "Reich-ian rhythmic patterns" - although they're perhaps blurred and slowed down to perhaps the warmest, least pointillistic, and possibly most un-Reich extent imaginable. The exact nature of the stringed instrumentation is quite unknown as Taylor purportedly custom-made much of it himself, but the effect created is stunningly beautiful environment not glacial shimmering tones, with as much in common with that arrhythmic ambience of the beatless second movement from Ex-Easter Island Head's Large Electric Ensemble as it does with Stars Of The Lid's legendary droning heaven music. A spellbindingly pretty, utterly mysterious, and very welcome addition to the growing British school of guitar minimalism."