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Patrick Cowley
School Daze | Dark Entries

Dark Entries Records

Regular price
$48.00 SGD
Regular price
Sale price
$48.00 SGD


Few musical legacies are as haunted by the spectre of sex—its pleasures and its consequences—as that of disco producer Patrick Cowley. It begins with the sound itself: the shimmering, orgasmic post-Moroder synth patterns of Cowley’s early 80s dancefloor anthems like “X-Factor” and “Get A Little”, and of course the tantric splendour of his 1982 remix of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”. Sex also is the music’s thematic preoccupation, to the point of fixation, reflecting the deep interpenetration of disco and gay bathhouses in late 1970s San Francisco, Cowley’s transplanted home: “Menergy” celebrates “the boys in the bedroom/ lovin’ it up/ shootin’ off energy.” In 1982, Cowley was one of the first public figures to pass away from complications associated with AIDS (before it was even known by that name), a tragic denouement partly captured in the disoriented and shadowed electro-disco of his final album, Mind Warp. It’s fitting, then, that the first concrete attempt to canonise Cowley as an electronic music auteur and innovator comes in the form of a compilation of soundtrack work for gay pornographic films. School Daze collects, for the first time on CD, instrumental work dating from 1973 to 1981, given by Cowley to gay porn production company Fox Studio, the majority finding their way into the films School Daze and Muscle Up.

There’s a handful of tracks in modes you might expect—“Zygote” is adrenalized cosmic disco, while the title track offers corpulent funk-rock—but School Daze mostly consists of expansive, meditative soundscapes whose ambiguous titles (“Nightcrawler”, “Out of Body”, “Tides of Man”) capture their simultaneous evocation of the intimate and the intergalactic, the immediacy of bodily sensation and the depths of deep space. A few deserve special mention. The 16-minute “Seven Sacred Pools” is luxuriantly expansive ambient dub that could fit onto Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, its heart-murmur bass and multi-tiered synth melodies embracing and decoupling in an eerie underwater consummation. The forbidding “Journey Home” is scraping metallic techno in slow motion, weaving together machinic sound effects with a recurrent didgeridoo bassline with exacting precision. The chiming, swirling “Primordial Landscape” starts off shadowy and restless, fusing Caribbean bounce with funereal dirge, before ascending to the ceiling with iridescent chime loops that prefigure Manuel Göttsching’s proto-techno masterpiece E2-E4. But whereas the electronic music which Cowley flashes forward to is mostly preternaturally bright and sharp, the arrangements here feel flushed and hazy, shadowed by the torpor of dope and the blood-rush delirium of amyl nitrate.

It’s not necessary to frame School Daze by the use to which these compositions originally were put, but it helps. In The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture, Daniel Harris writes that gay pornographers of the 1970s “believed they were filming two people, not in the act of fucking, but of merging, of coalescing, a process that involved the dissolution of their separate physical identities as they melted together, losing their definition as individuals.” Cowley’s music here captures exactly that vibe, its slow tempos, meandering arrangements, and persistent sense of disorientation and self-alienation evokes the world of San Francisco bathhouses rather than dancefloors. To listen is to step down those same long, dark tunnels: physical spaces of random encounters and depersonalised unions; psychological spaces of intoxication and longing. - Pitchfork

Label: Dark Entries – DE-052, Honey Soundsystem Records – HNY-005
2 x Vinyl, LP, Album, Compilation
Country: US
Genre: Electronic, Funk / Soul, Stage & Screen
Style: Minimal, Ambient, Soundtrack, Funk, Experimental, Electro