Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

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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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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Ignis Mutat Res – Lux Interna #607

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Ignis Mutat Res by Lux Interna

Since we last met Lux Interna on the music project with God is Not Dead for the Birds I have had more time on my hands to listen to their other works. During that time I’ve discovered that to enjoy today’s album you will need the following:

 

  • A basic understanding of Latin
  • A bushy hipster beard
  • Rolled up tight leg trousers
  • Braces
  • An ironic beret or bald pate or both
  • A bicycle

During the rise and wane of European neofolk groups would form, usually with a gruff-sounding male vocalist, and, mimicking Dead Can Dance et al, write songs with Latin lyrics or names.

To sound mysterious.

Without realising that Lux Interna was one such band, I had heard, and enjoyed, their track Horizon on the much fabled Looking For Europe Neofolk Compendium. And so, as with most bands that I hear and like the sound of on Various Artist compilations, I tried finding other albums by the band. In doing so I obtained this, their second album, Ignis Mutat Res (aka Fire Changes Matter).

It’s difficult to describe Lux Interna without alluding to other obscure neofolk bands. They certainly have a flavour of Love is Colder than Death and maybe a hint of Ordo Equituum Solis with notes of Changes chucked in for good measure and all wrapped up in a nice Projekt record label cling film. In fact, let’s throw in a bit of influence from Blood Axis or Of the Wand and Moon for good measure.But then I suppose that’s the whole neofolk genre in a nutshell.

Sadly the album itself suffers from a beardy bloke in black with a guitar trying to look and sound mysterious. Horizon is probably the most enjoyable track on the album, the others are a little too….comical…to be taken seriously.

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Hecate – Ordo Equitum Solis [#581]

R-436890-1421008785-2640Further darkwave caterwauling from the Franco-Roman musical union of Ordo Equitum Solis.

It is with this album one is clearly able to distinguish the influences from bands like Dead Can Dance, Miranda Sex Garden and Coil woven throughout the album’s fabric. Like a dusty tome, the album is often difficult to digest in the wrong setting. This isn’t something you might want to accompany you while you do the vacuuming or brass polishing, nor is it the ideal setting for a children’s eighth birthday party unless, of course, you are fostering future gothlings. Instead, this is the kind of album you’d probably want to burn some incense sticks with while donning one’s floaty hooded gown following a healthy manicure for those extra long nails of yours and drinking large amounts of dark red wine while lasciviously doing the dance from Kate Bush’s music video for Wuthering Heights.

The album is split into at least four sections, an introduction, Songs of the Man, Songs of the Fool and a coda which kind of suggests to an old Prog fan like me, that this work should be listened to in its entirety with attention paid to the liner notes or the song titles. Sadly, I don’t have any liner notes. All I have is song titles and from them, I conjure up mental imagery of sordid sexiness of the hooded variety in vaulted cellars filled with wine and incense smoke. Which probably says a lot about my own psychology than anything else…

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Heavenly Voices Parts 1 – 3 – Various Artists [#578-580]

A bumper three albums on a Friday with a most peculiar acquisition, Heavenly Voices.

Much like how Looking for Europe does for the Neofolk genre, Heavenly Voices does for the dreampop/ethereal wave genre by way of the artists on the Hyperium record label. Here we have, in effect, three distinctly glorious compilation albums featuring a whole range of talent from artists like Eden’s Sean Bowley and his side project Sunwheel to fully functioning bands like Bel Canto,  Black Tape for a Blue Girl and Miranda Sex Garden.

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[#578] Part One is possibly the most accessible of the three. A little catawauling here and there but a nice build up towards (and what was my introduction to) Ordo Equituum Solis‘  Playing with the Fire.

Dreamily swimming onwards through Die Form’s Cantique and culminating in Winter Moon Descending by Annabel’s Garden

hev[#579] Part Two takes a different approach. The songs here have a much more floaty dreamy kind of feel with a slight dash of hauntology. This album was my introduction to the whole Heavenly Voices trilolgy and as a result not only are there many artists who have appeared previously in the Music Project, for example Collection d’Arnell Andréa and Black Tape, but also many who are yet to come. Possibly my most favourite tracks from this album are Sunwheel’s Walk Upon the Grass (which, incidently, I was intending to shoot a music video for but couldn’t find a willing person to film in time! Maybe a later opportunity will arise) The Sea is My Soul by 24 Hours and the haunting 56 in 81 by Eleven Shadows.

 

11K190SNXWLFinally Part 3 [#580] copies of which are currently changing hands for around £300. Featuring a much more accessible approach to the genre with more familiar artists like Miranda Sex Garden and Bel Canto. Again, this album introduced me to many artists and it is easy to see why people prize it so highly. Emerging from Part 2’s forest of floaty vaginas into a dystopian landscape of industry like a stumbling ninny, the listener finds Part 3 rips up the leafy glades of Part 2 and drills deep concrete foundations of industrial darkwave right into your mind.

Legend has it that there is actually a part four and a part five compilation. Rumours, whispers abound.  Sadly the Hyperium label closed shortly after the death of its founder in 2002, but many of the acts continue on in the worlds of Darkwave and etheralwave.

 

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Happiest Days of My Life – David Galas [#567]

First post in a year and with it, our last visit to a David Galas album (unless he releases another album before I reach Z). Happiest Days is Galas’ difficult second album with anger, gloom and despondency key elements at play.

Smouldering gloomy guitar work coupled with a flavour of the conceptualisation of returning from war; shocked and horrified by the sights witnessed. Dark places. Dark wave.  Again, Galas pulls it off. It is a vast difference from Cataclysm and you can hear the developing themes that would later appear in Ghosts of California. 

I’d like to thank David Galas for this and all his solo albums to date. Thank you for making such life changing and affirming music at the right time. Your work has been a stretcher bearer for me on many occasions and  I guess you’ll never know how much it means to me and others. Please don’t give up on your amazing talent.

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Halo Star – Black Tape for a Blue Girl [#566]

Halo_Star_(Black_Tape_for_a_Blue_Girl_album_-_cover_art)Halo Star is the ninth studio album by the band Black Tape for a Blue Girl.

We’ve seen BTBG on the music project a couple of times before, most notably with their tenth album 10 Neurotics. As 10 Neurotics was my first experience of BTBG album and their most recent, the earlier Halo Star is difficult to adapt to, especially as I’ve not really given it that much play time. That’s not to say I don’t like it, I just guess that having eaten the cherry on the cake, the icing and sponge is one meal too much.

But I will perceiver.

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Gothic Erotica – Various Artists [#543]

41821Z2JRZLAnother gothic compilation. This time with a sleezy kink feel to the songs. Or so it’s suggested by the albums title. I’ve been more aroused sat at the back of the 81 bus than the music in this compilation.

That aside, it’s not a bad compilation. Lots of old and new favourites turn up to the mix including Mephisto Waltz, Nico, The Mission and Bauhaus. There are also some good covers too, Brix Smith does a version of Bowie’s Space Oddity, Ghost Dance do a version of the Yardbird’s Heart Full of SoulBauhaus’ Bela Lugosi’s Dead is given the Electric Hellfire Club treatment and Patti Smith Group’s Because the Night is reimagined by Beki Bondage.

Some songs in the compilation I can do without but it’s not something I could delete at this moment in time.

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Goth Stuff – Various Artists [#542]

This is an unusual compilation, and it is one that guided my ears in the direction I took when exploring the genre. It’s an unofficial compilation and, like all good music, not available in the shops. More of a mix tape someone put out onto the wibbly wobbly web back in the nineties.

The first track is Hoquetus I-VII by an unknown composer and by the third track, a Saltarello  also by an unknown composer, it starts to become clear that the compiler is trying to take the listener through their interpretation of goth music through the ages. Soon we hear Minstrel Hall by Blackmore’s Night. Not exactly goth but dabbling with medievalism, nicely leading us into track two, 18th Century Gypsy Music by Bubak and Hungaricus. Layers of folk influences building up. By the time we reach midway point, we are already being tricked into believing that Ataraxia’s Canzona is a faithful reproduction of a old classical piece.

Of course it’s not. But by this time you don’t care. Further tracks of the acoustic, goth, medieval theme float past including Eld’s interpretation of Death in June’s Death of the West, songs by Ordo Equitum Solis and Eden  also don’t seem out of place. The cherry on the top being Bauhaus‘ King Volcano. 

I’m still fond of this compilation, even though, in all honesty, I am missing a number of tracks from  the original compilation. Moreover, this album also saw me eager to discover more about bands like Ordo Equitum Solis, Blackmore’s Night  and Eden. Bands I would never have heard of if it had not been for illegal downloads of music from unregulated sources.

Of course, like home taping before it, downloading music illegally was the death of music and we know today how empty our lives have become because  music was killed.

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Ghosts of California – David Galas [#521]

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I love every second of this album and, as my wife will testify, I must have listened to something from it every day since I bought it in 2011. This is David Galas’ third solo outing, which, in my opinion, is probably his finest.

The dark brooding of Galas’ first solo album The Catacylsm has matured in the moody bath of The Happiest Days of My Life (his second) and emerged as a dark and haunting anthemic opus.

While The Happiest Days of My Life was initially a little hard to ingest I took well to Ghosts. From the opening gambit (a recording of air traffic controllers during 9/11 segueing into the atmospheric Sect VIII) to an acoustic version of The Last Days of War my favourite track from The Happiest Days of My Life, every second has been carefully thought out and produced to an excellent standard.

My only regret is that this album hasn’t had the recognition it deserves.  Few of my friends have heard it, even fewer care, and yet I do truly believe that despite all my attempts to encourage others to listen to it, if they really gave it a try, they too might get the same enjoyment as I did. I just hope that through this Music Project I might encourage a few others.

 

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