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School Daze

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Album Review

During the late 2000s and early 2010s, a handful of archival releases surfaced to augment the legacy of Patrick Cowley. First and foremost, the electronic dance music pioneer is revered for his advancement of disco and development of hi-NRG. The man who remixed Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" and scored club hits with Sylvester, as well as on his own, was also immersed in new wave, as documented on 2009's Catholic and a 2013 compilation of the band Indoor Life, the latter of which re-circulated a 1980 EP he produced. The much different School Daze consists of instrumental recordings, made from 1973 through 1981, that Cowley handed to John Coletti, owner of gay pornographic film outlet Fox Studio. Coletti used much of the material here, some of which he altered in speed and pitch, for School Daze and Muscle Up. Only the hard-charging opener "Zygote" has a strong connection to Cowley's dancefloor material, while "Seven Sacred Pools" — one of three sprawling pieces between 11 and 16 minutes in length — seems to prefigure the brilliant burbling sleaze of Sylvester's "I Need Somebody to Love Tonight." Slinking, slightly eerie tracks like "Nightcrawler" and "Out of Body" are somewhere between Tangerine Dream's contemporaneous film scores and early Human League. Despite the experimentalism, the material is often fully formed, highlighted by "Mockingbird Dream," a succinct theme of sorts with gorgeous melodies over rigid and liquid layers of rhythm and texture. For anyone with serious interest in '70s and early-'80s synthesizer music, this is a fascinating listen — essential for Cowley fans. Had the producer lived past the age of 32, he could have been as prominent a film music composer as Giorgio Moroder. The package's press release stated that proceeds would be donated to the AIDS Housing Alliance and Project Open Hand.


Born: October 19, 1950 in Buffalo, NY

Genre: Dance

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s

An instrumental contributor to the development of dance music -- post-disco and Hi-NRG in particular -- Patrick Cowley's influence carried far beyond his early-'80s prime. Artists including the Pet Shop Boys and New Order considered Cowley a major musical influence on their work. He explored uncharted territories of synthesizer sounds and instrument programming long before modern-day music conveniences. Cowley's extensive work with Sylvester gained him fame and glory as a producer, writer, and musician....
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