As you’d expect, it fades in. This latest tape from Peter J. Taylor’s School House project shares the unhurried microtonal advance developed over previous releases such as 2015’s Herd and last year’s aptly-titled Fade. And, like these releases, Taylor’s unwillingness to rush his compositions into the world creates a delicious anticipatory ambience, setting up a framework where every second can be savoured, every note pored over like mysterious jewels in a chain. But Buried also marks an expansion of School House sound, away from the wide-open textures that made those previous outings so immersive and satisfying. Instead of the perpetual deferral of Taylor’s beat-less shifts, he seems intent on giving us punters what we want, disrupting the perfection of his surfaces with frenetic burst of percussion, their eruptions pushing Taylor’s tunes into warped shapes full of kinetic energy. Put a donk on it? Not exactly, sparking a volcano under the tundra would be a better explanation, extreme heat meeting sub-zero chill in thrilling frisson.
Visual/verbal offers an early hint that something’s up. Cross-hatched kickdrum patters drift across and modulated gurgles, somewhere between a muttered alien mantra and rusty synth oscillations. You might think it resembles the background grumble of the radio lulling you awake after a restless night, although the insistent cycles of repetition are more like some weird distress call occupying your favourite wavelength than any breakfast show chatter.
Maybe those alien voices are telling you to get up and get your arse to the club? You’d be well-placed to surf the long, rolling wave of Lit if you did. An insistent bass pulse ushers in battering waves of trebly noise, all hi-hat chatter and slithering synth pulse straight out of the euro-trance playbook. Or you could be watching a scene from some 90s Matrix rip-off flick, in which our rumpled anti-heroes chase the arch villain-hacker-terrorist into a disco populated exclusively by people with spiky hair and piercings. It’s a nice buzz, to be sure, although the Pepsi-max rush gets dialled down halfway through for a moodier Mellotron fade.
There’s a nice sense of symmetry at play in Buried, each side of the tape offering up an atmospheric meditation that escalates into a blowtorch crescendo. Side B’s No Rave is a gassy mid-tempo pout, propelled forward by a stuttering bed of interference and bass. The excellence of the sound design – the melting synth chords that moan through the interlocking gear scrabble about two-thirds of the way through are a particular joy – doesn’t detract from the growing tension. The sudden fade out is deceptive. What seems like a missed opportunity for release is misdirection, as the white-heat splatters of Experience cut in with rude ceremony. Typewriter-hard clatters are bathed in soft synth rays as warming as dawnrise over a field of muddy gurners. It seems churlish to stop now. Flip the tape. Keep going.