When music trends pander to the lowest common denominator, the real rebellion discards formulas and charts a stubbornly individualistic path. That's where we find Schooltree on their second release, Heterotopia: forging a new standard in sonic storytelling and taking us through cracks in the sidewalk into other worlds.
Four years in the making, Heterotopia is a symphonic odyssey through a dystopian dreamworld: a 100-minute double record in the tradition of ambitious concept albums like The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Quadrophenia.
Underachiever Suzi loses her body and must make her way through a parallel world of the collective unconscious to get it back. But the road she travels has been overtaken by shadows and chaos. In order to become whole again, Suzi must uncover the origins of this darkness, in a journey that takes her from the neon lights of her plasterboard horizon home to the bottom of a cursed river, where the fate of this place and her own are inextricably linked.
Produced by Peter Moore (Think Tree, Count Zero) and Lainey Schooltree, Heterotopia favors warmth and dynamics but also clarity and punch, effecting a sound that's both classic and contemporary. Dramatic choices like distinct singing styles for each character's voice and accompanying instrumentation guide the listener through a shifting topography layered with stacked guitar harmonies, crystalline synth leads, odd time grooves and ominous ambient soundscapes.
Heterotopia's successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than $20,000, with signal boosts from notable artists Aimee Mann, Neko Case, Margaret Cho, Amanda Palmer and Barry Crimmins.
Brimming with ambition, this record is the sound of a group of musicians playing at their peak.
The illustrated book
In a nod to classic opera, Heterotopia's complete libretto will be made available as a companion to the album, bringing the story and lyrics to life in a full color illustrated book. Combining influences from art nouveau and graphic novels, the artwork has a dreamlike quality that complements the music.
The live experience
Heterotopia will first be performed on March 31 at OBERON, the American Repertory Theater's stage in Cambridge, MA. The performance will take audiences inside a 3D interactive light sculpture video installation by Sam Okerstrom-Lang (Samo), a Boston-based new-media interdisciplinary digital artist and designer. Samo's boundary-pushing work will use technology create an immersive sensory experience, blurring the line between nirvana and dystopia. From the moment each audience member enters the room, their experience will reflect Suzi's, as the installation's elements are activated in parallel with the performance. Key moments will be accentuated with sound and light, triggering an out-of-body sensation of navigating the worlds expressed in the music.
Lainey Schooltree is a Boston-based composer, performer and producer. A classically trained musician and vaudeville performer, humor and tragedy inform each other equally in her work. She explores the intersection of the new and old, always striving for the timeless in sound and theme. Her band, Schooltree, fuses literature and music to create something uniquely accessible, visceral and profound.
Lainey is the composer and librettist of Heterotopia, and will serve as performer, musical director and producer of the live experience.