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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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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High Broad Field – Sieben [#586]

R-3966307-1350801376-8852Last time we saw neofolk violinist Sieben on the music project was when he was supporting pagan folk band Faun on their live compilation Faun at the Pagan Folk Festival. This time Matt Howden whacks on his Sieben hat and applies his violin skills to his sixth release.

Howden’s style is very distinct. Lots of staccato and wood slapping violin wizardry with tense sustained notes overlain with perfectly pronounced dark lyrics multitracked and layered down with loops. As I’ve said before on the Music Project, Howden’s musical prowess is virtually unknown on the British scene which is a real shame, he really has a great talent which is well known throughout Europe but with little recognition in the UK.

High Broad Field is the preceding album to his Desire Rights and is a very close kin stylistically to the same. Elements from Sex and Wildflowers and Ogham Inside the Night are evident and one can hear aspects of Desire Rights in their infancy throughout the album. Delicious silky music for those who think Nigel Kennedy is a bit shit.

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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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The Gospel of Inhumanity – Blood Axis [#539]

Gospel_of_Inhumanity_CoverBlood Axis’ first album noted for featuring an interview with crazy Charles Mansun and poetry by Ezra Pound (The Voyage (Canto)).

There are two “songs” on the album that really strike me as significant. The first is track 5, Herr nun lab in Frieden (Men now live in peace) in which an excerpt from Moynihan’s interview with Charles Manson features. Manson talks about his grandfather’s realisation of the futility of war in the trenches during World War I.

The second is Absinthe (track 7) which is a tantalising taste of Moynihan’s then future collaboration with Le Joyaux de la Princesse.

Despite the album’s perceived intellectual leanings toward far right fascism, mostly due to Pound’s presence and his political beliefs and poetry by Nietzsche,  Blood Axis’ Michael Moynihan has denied such a connection. During the nineties, this album, industrial, neofolk and other similar genres became synonymous with neo-nazism notably by those fearful of the rise of gothic movement following the shootings by the Trench Coat Mafia at Columbine (conservative Americans).

However, a little research will reveal that in fact Moynihan has denounced the far right stating:

” Whether they’re the Marxist/Communist/Socialist people who think that humans want to get along on a grand scale, or whether it’s the Nazis, who think that if everyone was just of the same race, they’d all get along perfectly, or the anarchists, who think everyone would love to live this way if you just took away the police. They’re all deluded. People should worry about what happens on their block. They should get along with their neighbours before they worry about the great ills of society and about telling someone who lives 200 miles away what to do.”

It helps, if, like me, you first approach the album without knowing the alleged political and philosophical subtexts within the music. Indeed, taking the supposed philosophies and politics away from the album and approaching it, like I did, as a work of art, is not a difficult thing to do. In doing so, you actually can appreciate a dark, intellectual and thought provoking selection of music combining poetry, samples from Wicker Man and aural sound paintings similar to that presented later by Blood Axis when working with Le Joyaux de la Princesse on their collaboration Absinthe.

 

 

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God is Not Dead for the Birds – Lux Interna [#530]

41pN1uSvmWL._AA160_Take a substantial lump of Nick Cave, add a liberal amount of gloomy acoustic guitar, mix in a teaspoon of Sandy Denny or Barbara Gaskin (what ever you have to hand). Leave to fester for a few years and you might  just be able to recreate something similar to Lux Interna.

I discovered Lux Interna through the much touted Looking For Europe neofolk compendium and was able to source a copy of this, their fourth album from 2007. Again, unfortunately due to the time of life I discovered them, I have been unable to devote as much attention to them as I had hoped. Yet every time I do listen, I’m always rewarded by a rich tapestry of sonic gloom.

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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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Gather in the Mushrooms – Various Artists [#511]

Gather in the mushroomsGather in the Mushrooms  is a compilation album featuring tracks by acid folk bands from 1968-1974.

As a prog fan, it is only natural that I have a penchant for music often classed as acid folk, which, one could argue, is a shared root for the mighty tree of progressive rock in the forest of alternative adult music.

This album was kindly “donated” to me by a dear ex-work colleague with whom we share similar tastes in music and interests in media and popular culture. When I saw the artist listing I was further excited to see artists such as Sallyangie (Sally Oldfield, Mike Oldfield‘s sister, with whom he began his career), Pentangle, Magnet and Spirogyra, all of whom have connection within this music project.

Hauntology at its best, Gather in the Mushrooms provides a soundtrack for a period when Canterbury was just begining to burgeon and fills the minds eye with images of green home county villages populated with beautiful long haired tie-dye be-dressed lady hippies like in some Avengers/Hammer Horror/sci-fi TV/Film that was never made. Beautiful tracks like Sandy Denny’s pre-Fairport Milk and Honey, Trader Horne’s post-Fairport Morning Way and the largely forgotten Forest’s Graveyard not only provide a powerful aural illustration for the genre but create a fitting tribute to a time that existed for a few but was appreciated by many.

This has largely become my third most favourite compilation of the past decade.

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The Drift – Scott Walker [#398]

images You might remember Scott Walker as one half of the Walker Brothers. What do you mean you don’t know the Walker Brothers. Hmm. Ok…

That’s the Walker Brothers. Gary, John and Scott, brothers in music not by birth.

Ok, now I’ve established for you who the Walker Brothers are, let me tell you about Neo-folk. Neo-folk, according to Wikipedia, is:

a form of folk music-inspired experimental music that emerged from post-industrial music circles.Wikipedia

Unfortunately, Neofolk gets a teeny bit of a bad name due to its links to martial music and appropriation by a minority of Neo-nazi groups who aimed to spread their filth through the medium of good music.

I like Neofolk. I discovered it through the Looking For Europe neo-folk compendium, the first track on which is Scott Walker’s Angel of Ashes which, I’m told, is Neofolk.

Intrigued by the inclusion of one of the Walker Brothers on the album, I sought out more by the artist and found that at one point in his career, he was signed to my favourite record label…4AD.

Sadly the album The Drift, is an acquired taste. A taste, I’m afraid, my aural tastebuds finds a little too rich and unusual tasting. A little bit Anthony and the Johnsons with a pinch of  Current 93, topped with notes of Can.Still, like with Kiss, I’ll persevere. Just in case he gets better with age….

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