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Schooltree - 'Heterotopia' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/cd/ed/94/Schooltree-Heterotopia-12-1501356869.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     July 29, 2017    
 
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Could well end up in my 2017 Top Three albums.

Schooltree, I'm pretty sure, will be a new name to the majority of Fireworks & Rocktopia readers, but with this, their second album, I'm here to very much change that. Hailing from Boston Mass., the band is essentially the brainchild of one Lainey Schooltree who is a lady with a very singular view on all things musical.

Taking her queues from such landmark albums as Genesis' 'The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway', The Who's Quadrophenia' and Marillion's 'Brave' (and if anyone remembers it, Klaatu's 'Hope'), 'Heterotopia' is a lavish, ambitious one-hundred-minute Metaphysical Rock Opera telling the tale of social misfit Suzi who loses her body after a strange encounter with a Cat Centipede and, to quote the band, "must journey through a parallel world of the collective unconscious to get it back". The story as such is part reference, part homage to the work of philosopher Michel Foucault (hence the title of the album).

This double album is as fantastic as it sounds, with one foot planted firmly in the early seventies Prog era when these type of albums were de-rigueur, but also having a contemporary edge to it too. Funded through a Kickstarter campaign and some four years in the making, this release contains everything anyone with a passing interest in the Progressive/Art Rock movement holds dear.

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The "concept" as such could have led to self-indulgence, a claim often thrown at such projects, but not here. The storytelling is concise and never obtuse, allowing the listener to be fully absorbed into the tale, and along the way our intrepid heroine Suzi encounters such fantastical creatures as Leitmaidens, Metanoia and Enantiodroma which should really give the listener some idea about the nature of this particular sonic odyssey. Lainey Schooltree throughout the piece tackles all the vocals and keyboards and "plays" all the characters with various vocal treatments that allow each character to have their own unique identity. Her band also deserve mention as they have laid down a wonderful dense tapestry for Lainey Schooltree to sprinkle her magic upon.

To talk about individual tracks would really be doing this album a disservice and as such it really does require listening to in one sitting. Suffice to say, the music contained within runs the full gamut of Progressive/Art Rock, through angry, strident pieces to quiet almost pastoral works and all points in between, but delivered with a passion and belief that I've rarely heard in quite some considerable time.

This not an "easy" listen by any means and is best heard on headphones, with the lights off, to fully enjoy and luxuriate in all of its splendour. I've lived with this album for a few months now and it just never tires. It's still giving up its secrets, such is the range and depth of material on display. It may be a little early to say this but 'Heterotopia' could well end up in my 2017 Top Three albums, a bold claim, but this album is really that good.

Malcolm Smith

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