Excerpts from various Imagination School reviews, interviews, press announcements, etc., from over the years.

Imagination School Reviews

Imagination School – The Savage Coast Album, July 2011

IMAGINATION SCHOOL – The Savage Coast (Sonic Junction)

Should have written about this weeks ago; truth is, I’ve been enjoying The Savage Coast far too much to clutter up that enjoyment with the task of once again coming up with words. Imagination School albums are always very, very enjoyable, they’re always uncluttered, cleansing, clever in their simplicity (that not to say this is simple work, far from it).

The Savage Coast is neither classical music or rock music, just beautifully soothing instrumental warmth, gentle full-bodied pastoral flow, atmospheric melancholy, dark green leafy electronic soundscapes that really don’t sound like mere electronic pieces.  All rendolent of the smell and feel of wide skies of the East Sussex coastline, where the Imagination School lives.

Vaughn Williams, the very quiet side of Cardiacs (and their affectionate friends), classic Mike Oldfield and a slowly evolving piece of very soothing, very English sounding music. Walks in fields, sun through leafy summer canopies, easy days and everything sounding just right. This time around the piece is a little more repetitive – but as motifs evolving in a positive way, rather like clouds slowly forming, shapes changing without really bringing attention to the changes. We could talk of post-rock, classical warmth, of folk melodies, of full-bodied instrumental symphonies, but, ultimately, this is just a wonderfully soothing piece of very enjoyable, uplifting, relaxing music.


Imagination School – To The Level Of Light Album

ProgNaut Aug 2011

Imagination School is a group that is primarily made up of Laurence Harwood. In 2008, the debut album, To The Level Of Light was released. With 9 tracks that make up the album, primarily an instrumental album with one of the tracks “Temporal” (5:10) features vocals by Suzi Hicks.
The entire album has a dreamy, ‘post-rock‘ combined with a cinematic touch. It plays like a soundtrack to a movie of your choosing. You just close your eyes, wearing your favorite headphones is the best way to experience the beauty of the music. The songs flow endlessly between another making it important to take about 45 minutes from your daily activities to experience this album.
Besides the song “Temporal”, I find “Firmament” (4:48) and “Impossible” (8:08) to be personal highlights of the album, To The Level Of Light. There also seems to be a recurring themes from the beginning until the end especially in these three tracks.
To give you an idea of where Imagination School fits in the grand scheme of things, and similar qualities include Radiohead, Porcupine Tree, most of the artists on Kscope Records, a Polish band called Lebowski and at times, Goblin (but not as dark sounding).
This is one of those albums that you need to experience for yourself as it’s very rewarding and when it’s done you find yourself hitting the repeat button. If you’re a fan of the afore mentioned bands and the post-rock genre, then To The Level Of Light is something you should purchase (from the band if possible). This is a very recommended release.


Imagination School – To The Level Of Light Album

Harmonie Magazine April 2009 (translated from original French)

The Sussex group, which last brought out albums (now unavailable) eight years ago, is essentially comprised of Laurence Harwood, who was previously guitarist in punk group ‘Buzztonic’. ‘To The Level Of Light’ maintains a small relationship to progressive music, and like a lot of groups can be given the vague but useful title of ‘post-rock’. If the influences claimed are, among others, Cardiacs and Mogwai, then it is necessary to imagine these groups under the influence of sedative and marked dissatisfaction to get an idea of what lies behind To The Level Of Light.The piano often structures and directs the instrumental pieces (one exception being a graceful female voice in ‘Temporal’), in a misty layer of loops, sequences and discreet electronic sound effects. An electric guitar sometimes comes to nervously and briefly ‘stripe’ the resonant and weightless landscape, nearly always without drums. The group say that they have included samples of a nuclear reactor. The power suggested by the music comes from an incomparable melodic sense and intimate arrangements, like murmured music. This systematically touches the heart like secret sadness performed with a discreet nostalgia.If there is a ‘progressive’ dimension it is above all in the orchestration of some of the pieces, which is enriched by a progressive layering of themes, like Mike Oldfield, which invokes more than a melody. Imagination School knows to allow a place for slowness and also silence.It is a work of poignant sobriety and inexpressible charm, which at base succeeds where Radiohead in its synthetic colour of several years had partially failed, in alloying a sadness with a wish to speak intimately to the heart of the listener. Very surprising and very moving.

Review by Philippe Arnaud.

Reproduced with kind permission from Harmonie Magazine.(Translated from original French)

Imagination School – To The Level Of Light Album

Organ Magazine Jan 2009

IMAGINATION SCHOOL – To The Level Of Light (Sonic Junction) – Shimmering treats, glowing treasures, encompassing atmospheres, the new Imagination School album is something rather special. Washes of warmth and such delightful detail… Lazy reference points would put this somewhere near the Affection Friends side of relaxed Cardiacs/Sea Nymphs and the goodness of early Mike Oldfield. Spring-like and winter-full all at the same time, seeds pushing up through the warmth of the ground, those first brave shoots in to the light, magical boxes and trinkets that catch the first rays of sunlight to reveal themselves. All instrumental save for the beautifully voiced Temporal – now that really is Sea Nymphs heaven born and ever bright good. Lawrence Harwood, for he is Imagination School, would be the first to admit to a love for all things Cardiacs, he lets that influence flow in such a gracefully positive way on this, his finest release yet. To The Level Of Light is a wondrous album, an album that invites you in and reveals a little more with every must-come-back listen, an album you can leave on repeat for hours and hours and let it soothe with such radiant beauty. Look, I know we enthuse about so much around here, but this really is pond-vital shiver-up-the-spine good, glorious glowing clever simplicity, Cardiac-good, absolutely beautiful, if you touch it you will believe it, heart-lifting beauty.

See the review at Organart.

Imagination School – Stardance E.P.

Organ issue 69

“a magical, life-affirming very Sea Nymphs creature, like some appallingly rare, small but very strange orchid with a bizarrely complex life cycle involving fungi and ants that only grows on one patch of chalk down in Sussex. Like the Sea Nymphs there are influences of Gentle Giant, Henry Cow and the better, weirder bits of Oldfield…. It’s beautifully bittersweet instrumental music for the worlds that lie just behind the surface of things. Apart from the Sea Nymphs and Cardiacs, there’s absolutely nobody else doing this, and you may not know it but we all need this in our lives.”

Reproduced with kind permission from Organart.

French magazine ‘Harmonie’ reviewed the first Imagination School albums back in December 2001…(translated from the original French).

Imagination School are artists who work on the edge of the progressive microcosm, yet they should be in the centre of it. They do everything: compose, record, mix, design the sleeves and take care of the mail-order. All that doesn’t make promoting their albums very easy. So, it was by chance that I discovered the music of this English composer whilst exploring the huge amount of music on Three Imagination School albums are available via mail-order. The first, IS1 (1994) is a short album, only lasting 30 mins, but it is enough to engage you. In effect, it is a homage to Cardiacs, obviously a favourite band of Imagination School’s. Totally home-produced, it sounds like a good Cardiacs demo, containing certain mannerisms of the cult band. The songs are dynamic, a bit mad as is right and proper, but in the course of the album, one already detects some more personal ideas that will be developed in the next releases. After having ‘paid their tribute’, the next Imagination School albums find them ‘going their own way’. “IS2 (1998) is therefore radically different (from the first IS album), dominantly instrumental, in quite a calm style approaching occasionally the work of Mike Oldfield (Hergest Ridge) or The Enid (In The Region Of The Summer Stars). A prevailing atmosphere of melancholy dominates the album.”
“…this is sincere music with a fascinating beauty, surreal, but which in places can grab you by the throat (‘South Circular Tension’, and above all, ‘Stardance’.) Reminiscent of Kurt Rongey (IS 2 occasionally brings ‘Book In Hand’ to mind), the harmonic progressions are a real feature in the instrumental music. Many of the melodies are formed from scales which make them sound folky in nature, perhaps even medieval (‘Stacey’s Lair’, Downsland Drinking Song’) “All of the above comments apply to IS3, but this album has even more influences (some reggae touches here, some jazzy there). The album seems to be a melancholy reflection on modern life, and is more refined, like a musical painting. The melodic lines are interlaced, the sonorific colours are stacked up (‘Harvest’, ‘Monkey’, ‘Moonman’). There are vocals, but these are disguised/distorted systematically, the voice becoming another sound in the mix.”“Imagination School certainly deserve more recognition than the seeming confidentiality in which the band is at the moment enclosed”

Another Organ review, this time of the first ever Imagination School demo, back when we were known as ‘Hannah’s Imagination School’…

Hannah’s Imagination School – Demo

Organ issue 45

Oh, this makes it all worthwhile, a tape like this. More than a demo, with samples of instrumental creativity at the end of the songs. Youth in a bedroom with a four-track sometimes make the best sound in the world, when it’s fresh and naïve and immune to fashion… Now it must be said that this Imagination School has been worshipping heavily at the church of the big ugly shark a touch too devotedly in places, but sod it, the creative force of Hannah’s Imagination School will burst through the influences. You can hear that in the irresistible pop of ‘Jesus In The Kitchen’ already… what a breath of fresh air. The hymn-like instrumental of ‘Dig My Grave’ stands proud as something to be treasured… in other places it goes on a whirling rickety fairground ride. An excellent first offering. Reproduced with kind permission from Organart.