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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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 Ear Park – Department of Eagles [#622]

In Ear Park by Department of Eagles

There has been some discussion of late about the longevity of albums in the music market and how, because of the likes of Spotify (a Facebook infected platform), Apple Music and Google Play, albums have only a few years left in them. This is a discussion that people have been having for some years now, indeed, there have been discussions about why modern artists are required to provide fans with a selection of their other works when, surely just by the hard work put into making one song alone, the fans should just be thankful and worship the artist just for that one pitiful track. Kids today eh?

And why not?

Well, this is an example of where I’ve downloaded bought an entire album purely because I liked one track. Really I should come up with a tag for this kind of thing as it seems to have happened regularly.

Sometime ago, the song No One Does It Like You kept coming up on random playlists and internet radios where the software decides what music you would like. So often did it surface, I had to find out what it was from.

From the sounds of the song, I thought it had been dredged up from some 1960’s hipster compilation I had but I was mistaken, it was, in fact from the 2008 album  In Ear Park by Department of Eagles.  I suspect that the reason it kept coming up was that I’m a big fan of the 4AD label and many of the artists on that label such as Tanya Donelly, Dead Can Dance and Kristin Hersh to name but a few.

Over the years, including the recent weeks before writing this article, I’ve tried to enjoy the other tracks on the album. I don’t know what it is, but something just doesn’t gel with me. Whether that be mood, time, situation or just the fact it’s a little unfamiliar and not catchy enough beyond No One Does It Like You. 

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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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If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You – Caravan #604

Car-IfIThe thing with Canterbury scene folk music is it is as incestuous as progressive rock in that band members swap around like couples swap partners at a swingers party. Indeed, along with the band members, so also comes a very distinctive sound that pervades the music like the sort of odour that lingers inside a musty old caravan. Moreover, Canterbury scene bands blur the prog rock/folk boundaries and it is often difficult to pigeonhole your selected band into the correct genre.

When you listen to the likes of Caravan, it’s not surprising that it seems so familiar. Indeed, two of the band’s members, Richard and David Sinclair, later joined Camel. But apart from that, one can detect influences both from and to the likes of Gong, Spirogyra, Trees, Renaissance and even Greenslade. I ended up with this and three other Caravan albums following a deeper investigation of bands featured on The Best Prog Rock Album in the World…Ever compilation.

If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You is the band’s second album. Released in 1970 and features the original line up of the band – Pye Hastings, David & Richard Sinclair and Richard Coughlan. It also features a rather prog-a-licious heavily jazz-influenced 14 minute track For Richard. 

 

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Hidden Vagenda – Kimya Dawson [#585]

HiddenVagendaFormer Livejournalist, Goddess of lo-fi, mother of tweecore and sometime member of the Mouldy Peaches, Kimya Dawson, released her fourth album Hidden Vagenda in 2004. A time when lo-fi folksy tweecore was grabbing the youth underground via the internet at the time, the youth rejecting corporate created plastic bands in favour of unknown kids in their bedrooms chucking out tunes via the internet.

What a different sound and time that was.

I remember going to see Dawson perform tracks from this album in Liverpool during her European tour. The cosy venue had a sizable crowd for its size but it wasn’t rammed. Instead one could easily reach the bar without battling through a wall of people. Indeed, at the back of the venue, near where the bar was, one could see Dawson furiously knitting while the support acts did their bits. Eventually, when Dawson finally came to the stage to perform her part, there followed 90 minutes of the most enchanting mix of protest song, tragedy and tweecore punk folk.  Most of which featured on today’s album.

Some years later Dawson featured on the soundtrack for the hit GenX film, Juno. This was the only time I felt like a true hipster. I had seen Dawson, I had read Dawson, I had heard Dawson, long before all these new “fans” before the mainstream. And by that time the enthusiasm for the genre had started to fade.

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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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Gift for the End – Mariee Sioux [#523]

Unknown-7Psychedelic folk and New Weird America genres with elements of Joanna Newsom and Nick Drake combine once more as Mariee Sioux returns with her second album following the success of her first album Faces in the Rocks.

This is another album that I’ve had for some time without actually listening to it until I was preparing to write this entry. I suppose if I give it more time I’d come to enjoy it as much as I came to enjoy Faces in the Rocks and other New Weird America genre artists like Marissa Nadler.

 

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Music Project Album #17 – 1200 Curfews – Indigo Girls

1200 Curfews – Indigo Girls

What is this shite doing in my music library and how did it get there?!

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