Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Welcome to Stegzy’s Music Project

 

Mba22

Hello there!

Hello! Thank you for coming along.

Over the years I have accrued over 182Gb of music. That’s loads. Some I have paid for, others I have obtained as gifts or nefariously.

A great deal of this music I have not listened to, mostly because of protests from people in the same room but also because it would take me about 92.7 solid 24 hour days to listen to the entire lot (figures accurate). So, towards the end of 2012, I thought I would listen to each album in its entirety and post a small review of what I have listened to.

So far I have listened to a variety of music from various ends of the music spectra. From pop to experimental via the twisty-turny pathways of prog, goth and heavy metal. This blog was set up in response to demands by long term readers of my Livejournal blog. Mostly “Stop”, “Please no more” and “My God! You call this music?!”. Curiously, the same demands that come from people who are unfortunate enough to travel as a passenger in my car.

Each day, using J River Media Centre and iTunes,  I will be listening to the albums alphabetically without the aid of headphones and posting comments, reviews and general thoughts on each album as I come across them. Some might be good, others, bloody awful.

You can follow my progress here or via my Last.FM profile.  So, sit back, tune in, drop out, buckle up and fetch your pipe and slippers. With over 1800 albums to listen to, it’s going to be a very long ride.

**Update** – I am now accepting contributors. If you would like to review an album from my collection, please contact me via comment, PM or email. You can request an album to be appointed at random or let me know which artist you like. I might just have an album or two for you to provide commentary on.

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Keys To Ascension – Yes [#653]

As a teen I really liked Yes, I had forcibly had them played at me by my elder brothers so it was only to be expected. As my disposable income grew, I was able to purchase pretty much all of the band’s back catalogue either on cassette, vinyl or CD. Of course, this was fairly easy to do as the band went on hiatus between 1985 and 1988 then again between 1988 and 1991 and once more until 1994 and the release of Talk.

During those downtimes, no new music was released, instead regular “Best of” or live compilations, but to me, it didn’t matter then. I just went and bought what I could. But then something happened. I began to realise I was paying for the same songs over and over again. Nothing new. Maybe an unusual flourish or a change in tempo but really nothing new. I already had Yessongs, Yes Shows, 9012Live and Classic Yes so when I saw Keys to Ascension in the racking at HMV, I looked at the track listing and thought – why bother?

Keys to Ascension is a two volume compilation album featuring two discs per volume and features recordings from their live shows in 1996 of songs from the Going for the One and Tormato era (Interesting to note as they had just lost Trevor Rabin and Tony Kaye and regained Steve Howe and (briefly once more) Rick Wakeman) and some new tracks which later appeared on Keystudio .

This period of Yes history sets off my prickly brain. I really don’t care much for this period and even though the line up is the classic line up (albeit briefly and accentuated by Billy Sherwood), I don’t fall back into fandom with the band until Magnification and then, as if to take the piss, they do the whole “best of – live” shit again this time with touring live concerts (of which I went to three) until Fly from Here.

Lazy fan fanning and cheesy nineties rock do not make great albums. Indeed, Queensryche, Ayreon and Porcupine Tree were doing much better stuff at this time while Yes were following the Camel route of keeping the fans happy and experimenting. Personally, my music tastes were also changing at this time. I was no longer focussed on bands from my childhood and teenage, I was no longer being fed music by siblings, instead from more knowledgable peers, and I was starting to explore darker musical pathways which would eventually lead to a more mature adult contemporary pantheon of musicians.

At time of writing, Keys to Ascension is not available digitally on either Apple Music or Amazon but is available to buy on Amazon. I couldn’t care less about Google Play and I value my privacy too much to use SpottyFi.

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Keynsham – Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band [#652]

Keynsham….Tell me more about Keynsham

Having had the band’s infamous I’m the Urban Spaceman as a 7″ single since I was a Frisco Disco owning child, the Best of and Cornology since CD days and being fortunate enough to see the surviving band members perform at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in the noughties, in the it made sense to obtain the band’s re-released-re-mastered original albums which I did via Apple Music.

Keynsham was the band’s fourth album, arriving long after Gorrilla, Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse and Tadpoles, and stylistically it shows. While the humour and quirkiness of the earlier albums are still evident, there is a certain maturity and definate shift toward a more contemporary sound akin to the Beatles and similar acts in some songs.

The album contains a number of my favourite Bonzo songs and often has me singing along. Particular favourites include: Mr Slater’s Parrot, Busted and semi biographical The Bride Stripped Bare (by the Batchelors).

Listen on Apple Music

Listen on Amazon Music

Listen on Google Music if you must

Surrender your privacy and be damned via Spotify

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Jute City OST – David A Stewart [#651]

Album cover
Jute City by David A Stewart

In the late eighties I knew a guy at school, Charles Hurt, who introduced me to alternate comedy, comic books and graffiti. He would often regale me with tales of his mother’s lodger, a certain Scottish actor/comedian that I had seen in the dramatisation of Porterhouse Blue and would encourage me to seek out his other works. John Sessions was the actor/comedian. Regularly I would scour TV listings and magazines for any mention of him. Quite often I would find him on Channel 4 doing odd stuff or on Radio 4 doing odd stuff. But time passed and I began to care less about John Sessions however, imagine my joy when the BBC announced that a three part Sunday night drama featuring said actor would be broadcast.

Jute City was a BBC drama set in the crumbling city of Dundee and focussed on environmental issues and corruption. An absolute joy of a drama. Sadly only really shown once (that I know of). It starred David O Hara, John Sessions, Fish and a number of other actors who I can’t remember. The soundtrack for the drama was composed and performed by David A Stewart, not Dave “I worked with Barbara Gaskin” Stewart, but David A (A is for differential) “Eurythmics” Stewart.

The soundtrack has elements of Local Hero, uilleann pipes and a haunting whistfulness that seems to be a recurring theme through the Stegzy Music Project Library. The soundtrack is difficult to obtain these days and I’m not letting go of my tightly gripped CD but you should be able to find the drama on Youtube or somewhere.

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Journey to the Centre of the Earth – Rick Wakeman [#650]

Album cover

Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth is an album that has been in my library for many years. At a time when, most days, I would travel via bicycle wearing in-ear headphones and carrying a Sony Walkman in my pocket, a great deal of the music I owned would be transfered from CD or vinyl to cassette.

My regular trips to HMV, Our Price and Virgin Megastore often resulted in an internal debate on the pros and cons of buying the cassette format of an album or the CD format of an album. Quite often though, like in this case, I was unable to get the CD format because “it wasn’t popular but we could order it you in (for a premium)” and the cassette version was less than a fiver.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth is Wakeman’s attempt at creating a rock homage to Jules Verne’s novel of the same name. You might already be familiar with Verne’s literary masterpiece or you might be more familiar with Henry Levin’s 1959 cinematic version starring James Mason which was regularly shown on TV during school holidays until anything older than 30 years was banned by TV executives.

With narration by David “Barbarella” Hemmings, backing by the English Chamber Choir and London Symphony Orchestra, Wakeman really pulls off a great fusion of classical style music, modern rock and good old story telling. It’s really easy to see why it was panned by stuffy music critics on release but even easier to hear why it became a family favourite for many.

I really love this album. Say what you like about Rick Wakeman’s flamboyancy but Journey is a great album. I’m particularly fond of the first two movements especially how Wakeman managed to pop the words “Silurian epoch” into the lyrics without too much force. With a running time of just about 40 minutes, it makes a great accompaniment to a journey down the road…..

Listen on Amazon

Listen on Apple Music

Freely give away your right to privacy on Spotify

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John Barleycorn Reborn: Dark Britannica – Various Artists [#648] & John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth [#649]

In a Britain in an alternate universe where paganistic villagers performed fertility rites, sacrificed policemen in burning wicker effigies and sang folk songs with hidden paganistic undernotes you can imagine this compilation being enjoyed on PYE stereo systems or in-car Grundig cassette players.

Mental imagery of remote rural areas of the UK like the Pennine ridge of the Yorkshire dales and the Peak district with perhaps lots of woolen sweatered fishermen or farmer types (because why there would be fishermen in the Pennines I have no idea. Holiday perhaps?), busty lusty young Brit Eckland look-a-likes and manbeards worn for warmth rather than style. Burning log fires in remote rural public houses on the moors. Folk musicians holding their ears to keep in tune and the familiar pong of veganism. These are all brought to mind when listening to the British dark folk compilation John Barleycorn Reborn (JBR) (2007).

I had long lusted after JBR since Amazon first suggested it would sit nicely in my music library. Of course, not feeling confident that I would enjoy it because of the number of bands and songs I’d never heard of, I resisted, seeking only to try and obtain it during the great internet download free for all of the mid to late noughties. However, as recently as last year, I found the album on Apple Music together with its brother and followup compilation, John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth (2011).

As I took great interest in the neofolk movement that took alternative, mature and adult music to new levels across continental Europe the late noughties, I’m more aware that JBR is purely a British attempt to break into an already dying subculture. Yes we had the hauntology bit on our side (as the likes of Belbury Poly and similar bands from Ghostbox have shown) and we do hauntology well, but the dark/neo folk was becoming old hat and middleaged exgoth hipsters were already starting to reinvent themselves in other ways.

The compiler has put a lot of effort into these albums and, while they ooze hauntology, they stink of the imitation of the earlier neofolk compendium Looking for Europe (2007) which is much richer in diversity. Some strong acts feature especially the likes of Sieben, Sol Invicitus, Far Black Furlong and Martyn Bates while other groups linger, tempting the listener to delve into their own back catalogue while supping a nice warm frothing pint of Badgers Nipple and smoking a pipe.

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Track listing for John Barleycord Reborn: Dark Britannica

Listen on Amazon or Apple Music

John Barleycorn 3:56 The Horses Of The Gods
North, County Maid 2:40 The Owl Service
The Wicker Man 2:31 The Story
Spirit of Albion 4:16 Damh the Bard
Twa Corbies 5:14 Mary Jane
Dives and Lazarus 6:30 Andrew King
Three Crowns 5:38 The Triple Tree
To Kills All Kings 5:01 Sol Invictus
Ogham on the Hill 4:04 Sieben
Horn Dance 3:31 Sharron Kraus
Lay Bent To the Bonny Broom 7:55 Charlotte Greig and Johan Asherton
The Burning of Auchindoun 5:44 Pumajaw
The Scryer and the Shewstone 5:07 Peter Ulrich
Where the Hazel Grows 4:31 alphane moon
Hippomania 6:51 English Heretic
Icy Solstice Eye 3:28 Far Black Furlong
John Barleycorn Must Die 4:37 The Anvil
To Make You Stay 2:55 Tinkerscuss
Trial By Bread and Butter 3:37 The Straw Bear Band
The Sorrow of Rimmon 3:56 Electronic Voice Phenomina
Dragonfly 4:21 The Purple Minds of Lazeron
Stained Glass Morning 5:56 Sand Snowman
Summerhouse 5:11 The A Lords
The Guidman’s Ground 4:19 The Kitchen Cynics
PewPew 2:33 Quickthorn
Reed Sodger 4:20 Clive Powell
Child 102 Willie and Earl Richard’s Daughter 7:33 Venereum Arvum
Nottamun Town 6:55 Drohne
Gargoyle 6:16 Stormcrow
Pact 4:21 Doug Peters
Obsidian Blade 5:07 While Angels Watch
John Barleycorn: This Life, Death and Resurrection 4:51 Xenis Emputae Travelling Band
The Resurrection Apprentice 2:31 Martyn Bates

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Track listing for John Barleycorn Reborn: Rebirth

Listen on Amazon or Apple Music

The Rolling of the Stones 2:04 Magpiety
All Hallow’s Eve 5:05 Story, The
Wood 4:57 Telling the Bees John
Bonny Jaycock Turner 2:42 David A Jaycock
Oh My Boy, My Bonny Boy 2:30 Yealand Redmayne
The Bold Fisherman 4:36 Charlotte Greig & Johan Asherton
Tierceron 4:00 Steve Tyler
The Wendigo 6:24 Wendigo, The
Wake the Vaulted Echo (Tigon Mi 4:53 Owl Service,
The East Room V 3:33 Far Black Furlong
Brightening Dew 3:10 Xenis Emputae Travelling Band
Corvus Monedula 4:08 Sedayne
Bear Ghost 5:02 Straw Bear Band, The
Scythe To the Grass 3:06 Novemthree
Lavondyss 4:55 Paul Newman
Kingfisher Blue 5:16 James Reid
(Digging the) Midnight Silver 4:18 JefvTaon
Children’s Soul 1:48 Wooden Spoon
A Dream of Fires 3:21 Big Eyes Family Players, The
Improvisation At Kilpeck, June 4:18 Sundog
Ca the Horse, Me Marra 11:17 Clive Powell
Jack In the Green 2:41 Mac Henderson And Grand Union Morris
Seven Sleepers, Seven Sorrows 11:58 Cunnan
The Silkie 3:52 Orchis
Thistles 5:28 Twelve Thousand Days
Harvest Dance 2:31 Novemthree
Elder 3:45 James Reid
When I Was In My Prime 5:07 Mary Jane
Ognor Mi Trovo 3:18 Daughters of Elvin
De Poni Amor a Me 6:17 Misericordia
Child 102 (Lily Flower Mix) 7:54 Venereum Arvum
John Barleycorn Must Live 5:37 Anvil, The
The Old Way 0:45 Sunshine Coding

 

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Jardin D’Eden – Arom [#647]

Album Cover Back before the great internet download free for all of the early noughties and way before iTunes, Amazon Prime and Spotify, pioneers of the internet created diverse websites which fostered creativity instead of stifling it. One such groundbreaking website was called Peoplesound which encouraged and facilitated unsigned bands to release their music through the site who would curate and aggregate their works to potentially new fans.

For many bands this would be their first foothold into the world of music, indeed, a number of former Peoplesound artists went on to be hugely popular for example Sugarplum Fairies to name one. But more on Peoplesound in the future.

One of the Peoplesound artists I fell for was a french group called Arom. Now, if you’re ever thinking of starting a band, can I suggest that you use a word or phrase that is Googleable because Arom brings up all sorts of results, very few if any, relate to the band Arom. Or, for that matter, the band Arom I’m writing about, as it appears there have been several other bands with the same name.

The particular itteration of Arom we’re interested in today is one, possibly from France, maybe Canada or Belgium,  who have a bit of a “Bjork meets Portishead” sound. I actually have two versions of the album – the Peoplesound EP and the official album which is available on Apple Music.

The Peoplesound EP (2000ish) features 5 tracks, 3 of which, after much post-production, made their way to the official album (2007) which features 11 tracks – all of which have been heavily processed and, in my opinion, have lost the haunting focus of the EP.

Jardin d’Eden by Arom is available on Apple Music and Amazon

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Jade – Flowing Tears [#646]

Album cover of Jade by Flowing Tears (2000)During the great internet download free for all of the mid to late noughties, I occasionally obtained rogue MP3s that I would review at my leisure then try to locate the artist. Often they would have been uploaded by some fan who hadn’t tagged the file correctly or they were really obscure acts that nobody seemed to know. Frequently I forgot to make a note of where I got the file from or find it again.

Two such files were ones which appeared to have had the artist tagged as Flowing Tears and Withered Flowers. They were dark.  Euro Goth with poorly pronounced English and a wistfully moribund tone. Sounded great. Sadly, in those days, the internet was relatively still in its infancy which meant that a lot of the knowledge out there today was still in people’s heads and not accessible via the likes of Wikipedia or Stegzy’s Music Project.

Of course, the reason I couldn’t find anything was partially because the files turned out to be unreleased songs by the band who later became Flowing Tears (dropping the Withered Flowers suffix). A further hurdle was that for some reason many music channels in the UK looked unfavourably on continental European bands and often searches on Spotify, Google Play, Apple Music (or iTunes as it was then) and the like resulted in nothing. Which is partially why many people turned to piracy.

Recently though, it has got better. Apple Music is a lot better than it was way back when, and even Google/Youtube has improved. As a result, and partially why the Music Project was put on its second hiatus, I was able to add two Flowing Tears albums, and many other new artists and albums, to my Apple Music library.

Jade is the first release for the band under the Flowing Tears name and was released in 2000. At this point the band had changed its line up to feature Stefanie Duchêne as its lead singer replacing guitarist Manfred Bersin’s lead vocals, assumidly so he could go back to playing his guitar.

The familiar sounds created by the band in their release, Swansongs (released under their original name) are evident in Jade if not more evolved. Indeed, Jade seems like a natural shift towards what sound the band became. Its still never going to be a mainstream sound in the UK and its likely that few people in the UK or US have even heard of the band, but if you like the sounds of bands like Scream Silence or Nightwish, I suggest you give Flowing Tears a go, if you haven’t done so already. You might be similarly enamoured.

 

 

More information see: Amazon or Apple Music

 

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Jackie Brown OST – Various Artists [#645]

Jackie_Brown_album.jpgIn 1994, I went to the Liverpool ABC cinema in Lime Street to kill a couple of hours I had spare. As I took my seat in the empty theatre, little did I know that I was about to be subjected to an amazing rollercoaster of a film. Pulp Fiction hit me like a train. To me, this was a new style of film, a new director to follow and a soundtrack that would fill that period of my life with music. So when Tarantino’s followup was the 1997 film, Jackie Brown, I was hoping that it too would renew the tarnished soundscape of my life.

By this time I was working long hours in Bootle so trips to the cinema seemed like a luxury reserved for films that had to be seen on the big screen like Star Wars. All other films, especially those which we were uncertain about, were relegated to the cheaper hire from the video shop. Despite being a video rental, Jackie Brown didn’t disappoint.

Quite often with music, it’s easy to hope that the blow away of the previous success will continue to fill one’s sails with uplifting wind and it’s sometimes the case that we disregard those works that follow as “not as good as the previous”. Take Air’s Moon Safari or Portishead’s Dummy for example, both are much more successful than their later releases because perhaps, they were seen as groundbreaking.  I think the same is true of film and that a person’s personal perception and appreciation will change depending on their tastes.

That said, the soundtrack to Jackie Brown is as vastly different to Pulp Fiction as a cake is to bread but still holds its own. A lot more soul and country compared to Pulp Fiction‘s surf guitar filled selection but still a really good selection of tracks and, like the film, at a totally different pace.

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It’ll End in Tears – This Mortal Coil [#644]

Gloomy collaborative music by Evo Watts’ music project This Mortal Coil.

Like Mike Oldfield’s Islands this was also part of a x for £xx deal at the Virgin Megastore in Liverpool (now Claus Ohlson). I mourn the passing of record shops and their x for £xx deals, this is not an offer the likes of Amazon, iTunes and their ilk seem to foster. I was drawn to This Mortal Coil and their 1984 album It’ll End in Tears via the 4AD Uncut Compilation CD and David Lynch’s Lost Highway in which the band’s cover of Tim Buckley’s Song of the Siren featured and marked the beginning of me being a little more adventurous with my music choices. However I only became aware of them following the rerelease of the album in the nineties.

Of course, this was in the nineties so music downloading hadn’t really taken off in the UK due to the crapness of internet connectivity but it quickly became a prized item in my music library. Especially as it made me feel that I appeared cultured and with it to my Guardian reading, coffee table book owning friends at the time.

Hipster? moi? Nah my trousers are not corduroy and I don’t own a penny farthing.

Apologies for the break in posts last week, I’m still rebuilding my music library following an IT issue with my iMac, and have just returned from a holiday in Dorset so posts will be a little sporadic for a few weeks. However, please do not feel I’ve abandoned this project or stopped writing, I haven’t. Keep an eye out on my other blog, the Compostual Existentialist over the next few weeks for details of my recent holiday.

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Islands – Mike Oldfield [#643]

One lesson to learn when curating a large collection of music is to make regular backups. Last week I had to make an emergency restore of my Mac’s OS which meant having to resort to a backup from the iCloud. Unfortunately, this meant that only the files I’ve managed to upload via my very slow 21st Century rural broadband or those matched via iTunes are currently available for me to listen to. Indeed, today’s album, Islands, is not available on iTunes and my iCloud library does not have the files uploaded, which is a shame. Fortunately, I did manage to listen and pencil together a brief draft of observations for today’s entry but it means there may be a slight decline in posting regularity for the next couple of weeks. Please stay with me though!

Good old “x for £xx” deals. If it wasn’t for “x CDs for £xx” deals my music library would probably have been very sparse and I’d have a lot of money.  I first obtained Oldfield’s Islands on CD during a 3 for £20 deal at the Virgin Megastore in Liverpool (now Claus Ohlson) in the early nineties, I think I was still at school.

When Islands was released, computer graphics were, by today’s standards, a little bit shit. But that didn’t stop artists like Mike Oldfield from using visual media to add to their output. So when I came across the music video that accompanied this album, Wind Chimes, I was blown away. “WOW!” I would say, “Look at the detail on that vector graphic!” something I would struggle to recreate on my Commodore 64 even if I had the right programme to do something like that.

So a career in computer graphics passed me by because the technology I had to hand was insufficient to help tease me towards such an occupation. The self-realisation that already older people are often better at things than you is a big train not to miss.

The Wind Chimes is the long piece in this album and is riven with melodies, rhythms and motifs with a heavy eastern and international influences pretty much like most Avante Garde and artistic music of the time (see also the African influences in Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe). The other tracks are songs performed by the likes of Bonny “Total Eclipse” Tyler and Kevin “Nick Drake” Ayres. Also, curiously, Yes alumni Geoff Downes and Enigma’s Micheal Cretu also assisted with the production which just sends chills down my spine as trying to visualise the way my music tastes are connected is what inspired this whole project in the first place.

If you are enjoying this project, please share and tell your social media pals. Publicity is key to any successful blog or online project. I’m not asking for cash and I’m not asking for fame, just an appreciative readership.

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Ipcress File – John Barry [#642]

If you’re one of those people who only engage with media that is no older than twenty years old, then not only are you deluding yourself, but you are missing out on a whole trove of cinema, music and literature. One such diamond in this trove is the 1965 film Ipcress File the soundtrack for which is today’s entry in the project.

The Ipcress File is pretty much how James Bond would be if he was real. Lots of form filling, shit salary and offices that have seen better days. The film follows the adventure of Michael Caine’s Harry Palmer character who is caught up in a bit of cold war era espionage involving the reprogramming of prominent scientists through sinister mind washing techniques employed by Soviet-era bad guys. There are more twists, turns and double-crosses in this film than a box of headphone cables.

The iconic music, also a diamond musically, has been sampled to death over the years by bands like Portishead and makes heavy and distinctive use of an instrument known as a Cimbalom.

The soundtrack was one of the first albums I bought through the new iTunes store back in the noughties. However, as I didn’t have a portable device capable of playing Apple’s proprietary music files, I could only listen when at my computer. This was, of course, in the time when computers where huge things that sat on your desk and not the candy bar sized multimedia devices of today. But when you see the film and the size of computers in 1965, you’ll be grateful you don’t have to cart one of those around if you want to make a phone call.

Apple Music logoAmazon music logo

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Introspective Raincoat Student Music – Sugarplum Fairies [#641]

The second album from Sugarplum Fairies, a band I discovered on Peoplesound back in the nineties. Following Flake was never going to be easy but Introspective Raincoat Student Music works so so well.

The usual mix of lovesick, cheated and disgruntled arts/English Literature/Philosophy student lyrics with a very distinctive low cost lo-fi sound before lo-fi was a thing. This is the kind of music that laughs at today’s hipster music because it was hipster before it was trendy not to be trendy before people knew it was trendy to be a trendy not be trendy hipster with vaping irony and a beard.

Of course, when you’re in love with something for a long time, like for example I was with their first album Flake, and something new comes along, the temptation to sneer and be tentative about the newcomer is natural. Eventually you get over this initial hostility and learn to love what comes next. IRSM became a favourite for me slowly. I think it was how I connected with the lyrics and the situations described within that did it for me. Life changes as must a bands music. Sometimes quickly, sometimes subtly.

Indeed, IRSM left me wanting more and it wasn’t as long to wait three years for the next Sugarplum Fairies album Country International Records   .

 

 

Available via:

And probably on Spotify if you’re desparate

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Into the Labyrinth – Dead Can Dance [#640]

Into_labyrinth_-_dead_can_danceThe sixth studio album from Dead Can Dance was the first to make me think that perhaps it was time to move on from this particular taste in weird music. A marked change from Dead Can Dance’s previous album Aion , Into the Labyrinth has a completely different, more world music feel to what came before.

It was my penultimate Dead Can Dance purchase before the long haitus and Anastatis and still I feel a little disappointed with it. Even after having not listened to it for some time before reasearching for today’s entry. I guess by this point Perry and Gerrard were busy doing their own thing and it was a contractual obligation that needed fulfilling. It sounds like it.

 

Available on Amazon and iTunes.  It might be on Spotify but I wouldn’t know.

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Into the Gap – Thompson Twins [#639]

album cover for Into the gap by the thompson twins
No Eighties compilation can possibly be complete without Thompson Twins. Indeed, no music collection grown across the decade of the eighties can be considered complete without them either. Thompson Twins are a sound so the eighties they may as well have quiffy hairstyles, have a band member of undetermined gender and look moodily into the camera when not dancing freestyle in their music videos.

During one of my many visits to Virgin Megastore when I was a student in 90’s Sheffield, I was desperate to make up a 3 for £20 offer from the selection available, so it was Into the Gap that became the third. Sadly, in a desperate effort to make friends, I loaned the CD out to someone only for me to drop out of uni a few months later and lose contact with the borrower forever.

Fortunately for me, I kept a cassette recording of the CD to listen to on my Walkman and managed to rip the cassette recording nearly an entire decade later. The version I have now is kind of a third gen rip of the album but still really good crystal quality. A testament to the various recording devices I’ve had over the years.

Yet considering I wasn’t all that keen on the band to begin with, I really fell for this album. Perhaps it’s the waves of nostalgia that come with it or perhaps the power of the three hit songs from the band that appear on the album. I’m not entirely sure.

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Into the Electric Castle – Ayreon [#638]

Ayreon_-_Electric_Castle album cover
Big-haired symphonic prog rocker Arjen Anthony Lucassen’s third concept album, with his collaboration project Ayreon, tells the tale of time-napped protagonists sent to find their way through some weird assault course like maze for some obscure reason that really doesn’t matter.

Marillion’s Fish, The Gatherings Anneke van Giersbergen and Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel all play characters warbling their way through various trials and tribulations much like they might in some Jeff Wayne tribute musical if it was done right. The dramatic passion within the music illustrates just how talented and creative Lucassen can be if left to his own devices.

Into the Electric Castle is possibly my most played Ayreon album if not for the fantastically big hair rock Rainbow Bridge which often results in in-car rock performances while en-route to distant places indeed, I have frequently threatened to subject passengers to the entire album it’s so good.

I think if I’d come across the music in 1998 when it was released, many of the late night conversations I used to have about music with my pals would have resulted in even longer talks into the night. Sadly I only became aware of Ayreon when I had moved away from my hometown of Liverpool, leaving the opportunities for late night debate ever diminishing into the realms of misspent youth and early adulthood.

 

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Into Temptation: The Best of Gothic Rock — Various Artists [#637]

intotemptationThere are as many compilations claiming to be the best of gothic rock entitled Into Temptation as there are compilations claiming to be the best of gothic rock. Confusing really as this isn’t really what I’d call Gothic Rock, it’s what I’d call Scandinavian symphonic rock fronted by tight-fitting low cleavaged black catsuit wearing busty sirens in a wind tunnel aimed at appealing to frustrated teenage males with big hair and middle-aged balding forty-somethings trying to recapture their lost youth.

When the much talked about Great Internet MP3 Download Free-for-All of the mid to late noughties hit, I was trying to develop my musical tastes in the dark elven forests of gothdom. As long-term readers may remember, one of the many tactics I use to discover music is to download compilations to figure out which bands I like the sound of.

One of the first compilations I downloaded was called Into Temptation. It had some really good songs on it from bands like Nightwish, Within Temptation and Ayreon. Sadly, I lost the first version due to file and disk corruption and, despite repeated attempts, was unable to locate the version I had. But with acts like Nightwish, Within Temptation, Ayreon, Sirenia, The Gathering, Lacuna Coil AND Tristania….it will do.

Complete tracklisting for this compilation:

1 –Within Temptation – Ice Queen
2 – After Forever – My Pledge Of Allegiance #1 (The Sealed Fate
3 –Nightwish – Ever Dream
4 – The Gathering – In Motion #1
5 – Tristania – Wormwood
6 – AyreonMy House On Mars
7 –Within Temptation – Our Farewell
8 – Ambeon – Cold Metal
9 –Lacuna Coil – Senzafine
10 –After Forever – Emphasis
11–Trail Of Tears – Driven Through The Ruins
12 – Sirenia – Meridian
13 – Beseech – Between The Lines
14 – Therion – O Fortuna

And if that list doesn’t get you running for the Kleenex you’re obviously listening to the wrong genre.

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Interstellar Encore – Pink Floyd [#636]

R-1738078-1240176164.jpeg.jpgA bootleg so bootleggy you can smell the sweaty socks. Interstellar Encore is one of many Pink Floyd bootlegs donated to my collection by a former work colleague who had a similarly large music library to mine, although admittedly, most of his music was a bit more….”bootleggy” in nature.

Of course, back then, the tagging of MP3s was in its infancy and some people used to just dump a load of MP3s into a folder of a CD with no organisation and pass it around like a spliff at a hippy party. Carefully written sleeve inserts would get mixed up and any questions about which MP3 belonged to which album quite often resulted in snorts of derision.

So, as a result of how it happened, my version of Interstellar Encore might differ from 99% of the people out there with the actual Interstellar Encore bootleg although on research the track listing does seem to match up. But, such is the nature of illicit downloads and bootlegs; only a true fan would tell you whether it was actually the Filmrore West Interstellar Encore version of Embryo that I have or if it was the Biding My Time in Croydon version.

Like I care.

Incidentally, if you’re still enjoying this music project, I would appreciate a little publicity. One thing that fires me up when doing this project is knowing I have a readership. While it’s not exactly interactive like say The Existential Compost, The Compostual Existentialist or u/stegzy on Reddit, a look at the (very basic) site stats shows me that I do have some visitors, but having more keeps my typing fingers itching!

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Emerger – Carptree [#635]

Emerger by Carptree
Apple Music was one of the causes of the last hiatus. Having taken advantage of the super 3 months free offer and slightly better than usual broadband at my rural home, I was given access to loads of new music. Moreover, I was thrilled to discover the “Suggested for you” feature of the For You tab and how it “Suggests” music you might like based on your listening. Then, one-day last year, Apple Music suggested I’d like Emerger by Carptree and that was it, I was sucked in like a leaf in a water pump reservoir.

Carptree do everything right that a progressive rock band formed of two Swedish blokes with a fondness for fishing and a theremin would do. Bog standard low budget music videos, lyrics about nature, crazy waxed moustaches, lots of keyboard twiddly and a vocalist that sounds like Peter Gabriel before he went all Brian Pern.

Emerger is new prog done well. Like someone has been handed the progressive rock recipe book and followed it to the letter. The whole album has a semi-concept feel (is it about fishing? Or is it about life on a river bed? I’m not entirely convinced) and the production values show how easy it is for middle-aged mates to be creative together in a “We’re getting old now but haven’t made it yet because of the day job” way with an Apple Mac and a bloke from work who plays the drums.

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Insane Times – Various Artists [#634]

 

61FhX7u36eLInsane Times: 25 Psychedelic Artyfacts from the EMI Vaults is a compilation album of really odd music. I’d say completely odd but the inclusion of Bonzo Dog, Yardbirds and Kevin Ayres kind of bring the oddness down a bit. It is though, very much the Psychadelic Rock version of the folk anthology Gather in the Mushrooms

Amongst the bands appearing in this compilation are Mandrake Paddle Steamer, Simon Dupree & the Big Sound, The Lemon Tree and The Orange Bicycle with some oddly familiar yet new to many songs. I saw this compilation as a gateway to new-to-me and interesting acts from the psychedelic era, about the time when the Beatles were farting about with Sergeant Pepper and lots of drugs and indeed, there are subtle beginnings of some huge prog acts within this album and bands in which young prog stars cut their teeth.

Very much an interesting selection.

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Inconsolable Secret – Glass Hammer [#633]

TheinconsolablesecretWhenever I hear Glass Hammer, I can’t help imagining a group of prog loving guys getting together to play music they enjoy. They do a few cover versions then decide to do their own stuff. Their own stuff is heavily laden with references to riffs and melodies from the covers they have just played. This makes their sound almost comical and self-referential.

I first heard Glass Hammer on the Odessey concept album, a various artist collaboration retelling the story of Odysseus, in the track In the Court of King Alkinoos and was interested in its similarities to works by Yes and King Crimson. A quick Google resulted in the suggestion that Inconsolable Secret was an album that I’d like.

I didn’t.

There is a little too much twiddly in the album for me. Lots of long keyboard widdling and guitar wankery can be a little too detrimental to the sound of an album. Moreover, the similarities to Yes are a little too obvious. Indeed, Glass Hammer singer Jon Davidson would later go on to replace Jon Anderson in the latest post-Squire incarnation of Yes. Beyond that, there are too many similarities to In the Court of King Alkinoos. Too often I forgot I was listening to Inconsolable Secret and thought iTunes had slipped into Oddessey. Still, it’s an interesting work and I suppose I keep it just incase my music tastes develop later, much like how they did recently with Renaissance and Illusion.

 

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The Incident – Porcupine Tree [#632]

Unknown-6.jpegPorcupine Tree‘s tenth and final album, The Incident draws heavily from other progressive rock bands and especially shows influence from Pink Floyd in their homage Time Flies which has clear elements of Animals and Dark Side of the Moon woven stylistcally throughout the song.

The first time I properly listened to this album was while doing research for today’s post and was frequently surprised by the elements that appear throughout the album. THe aforementioned Pink Floyd homage and even stylistical similarities to David GalasCataclysm.  Definiately the icing on the Porcupine Tree Cake, the album has grown on me over the weeks and, if you’re a prog or Pink Floyd fan, I think you too might be tempted to lean favorably towards it.

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The A1111….and Other ones – John Shuttleworth [#631]

Unknown-5One-trick Pony John Shuttleworth’s latest album.

You might know Graham Fellows as Jilted John or in his Northern persona John Shuttleworth. Simplistic easy listening with a heavy dose of Northern British humour. I bought this album after seeing Shuttleworth live in Milton Keynes.

An amusing musical folly.

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Incas Valley – Yes/Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe[#630]

Unknown-4As long term readers of this project might remember, during the divergence of Yes in the early nineties, when Chris Squire said “No” to Jon Anderson’s use of the band name

Yes

forcing the creation of  the eponymous Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe (and later the creation of Anderson Rabin Wakeman (ffs!)), Jon Anderson, Bill Bruford, Rick “Keyboard Wizard” Wakeman and Steve “Carpet” Howe  got together with Tony Levin, released an album and went on a world tour entitled An Evening of Yes Music. Incas Valley is the bootleg of one of those shows.

I remember being excited at the prospect of Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe touring the UK with their show and hoped that I would be granted permission from my parents to go to their gig, the closest to me at the time was in Birmingham. Sadly, my olds decreed that 16 was too young to go to Birmingham to see a rock band on my own and my older brothers couldn’t care less about their younger brother’s musical development so didn’t offer to take me. Instead one recorded onto a cassette a BBC radio broadcast of the gig instead so I had to make do with that.

Many years later I discovered the Incas Valley bootleg on a binary newsgroup and it was pretty much the same set but with extras. So now, to relive that experience, I often play Incas Valley on my stereo in the kitchen while I charge myself £40 to sit in the loft and pretend I’m in the Birmingham Arena. Win!

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Incantations – Mike Oldfield [#629]

Incantations_(Mike_Oldfield_album_-_cover_art)Incantations is Oldfield’s fourth album following Ommadawn and precedes Exposed. Musically, this album features themes and motifs that are repeatedly used throughout the four sides accompanied by Oldfield’s stylistically familiar circle of fifths.  Through his guitar wankery, his use of choral and a folksy solo by his singer du jour, Steeleye Span’s Maddy Prior (doing a really good impression of Renaissance’s Annie Haslam), the whole album just screams Mike Oldfield.

Incantations requires a good set of headphones, a good red wine and a badly earthed hi-fi for that true middle-class seventies dad experience. It is sadly too minimalist for casual listens and, like most of Oldfield’s work, definitely requires the listener’s full attention to appreciate fully.

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In the Name of the Father (OST) – Various Artists [#628]

 

Unknown-3.jpegThe soundtrack for the 1993 film In the Name of the Father about the Guildford pub bombings of 1974.

While the film is an often harrowing study on injustice, political corruption and false convictions, the soundtrack is nothing that special. Bono, Sinead O Connor, Gavin Friday, The Kinks and Thin Lizzy (naturally with their Whisky in the Jar) give the whole set the geographical soundscape for the period piece, Bono and O’ Connor  for the Irish connection and The Kinks and Thin Lizzy to set the time.

I think around that time in the nineties there was a strong swell in Irish pop and rock surfing on the crest of which was Bono on his U2 surfboard and it seemed like any TV show or film with a vague Irish link would have featured either a song by U2 or Sinead O’ Connor.

Mrs Gnomepants v1.0 was very fond of the film and requested that I obtain the soundtrack during the Great Internet  Free For All of the early to mid noughties.

 

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