Patrick Cowley's revelatory early instrumental works compiled on "School Days"
Patrick Cowley was without a doubt one of the most important innovators of late-period disco. He has produced Sylvester (arguably his most popular records), came up with immortal 15+ minutes-long epic remix of "I Feel Loved" and singlehandedly invented serotonin-driven version of sped-up electronic disco tailored for early 80's underground gay clubs and known as HI-NRG.
Before his early death in 1982 from AIDS complications Cowley managed to record 3 full-length albums, last of which "Mind Warp" could be partly considered as a framework for house and techno music to come a couple years later. Considering this small, but important body of work and tragic story Cowley is bound to be remembered primarily for his dance music productions.
Nevertheless there is another equally fascinating side to musician's heritage that have just re-surfaced courtesy of "School Days" compilation on San Francisco's Dark Entries label. The story goes that Cowley has been studying music in City College of San Francisco after moving to the West Coast from his native New York in 1971. While in school Patrick set up Electronic Music Lab specifically for getting access to then expensive synthesizers. Throughout his studies Cowley managed to accumulate considerable amount of instrumental sketches, jingles and atmospheres. The material found it's first use soundtracking some of the gay porn movies by Fox Studios after the boss of the enterprise John Coletti approached a man on a tip from Sylvester.
"School Days" is the first time Cowley's early works will be widely released for a less specific consumption. Although used for early 80's porn producer's work here is a far cry from richly-orchestrated boogie muzak usually associated with an era. Instead these compositions are closer in nature to pulsating Carpenter soundtracks, early-period kosmische epics by Tangerine Dream and new age journeys of Suzanne Cianni or Iasos.
Compilation comes at the right time when interest in new age and instrumental synth music is at its historical high. This month for instance will see the release of another wide-scale 3xLP collection "I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990" featuring genre's most far-out experiments. It's great then that this surprisingly accomplished and quite revelatory stuff is finally getting its deserved attention while also shining new light on the style development and work of one of dance music's most iconic innovators.
Compilation comes in 2xLP edition encased in glossy gatefold featuring presumably uncensored promo photographs for some of Fox Studio's gay-porn titles and essay by Cowley's sometime collaborator Jorge Socarras (make yourself a favour and check out their magnificent album "Catholic" unearthed by german label Macro back in 2009).