Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

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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Great British Psychedelic Trip (Vols 1-3) – Various Artists [#548]

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 11.39.20A compilation of psychedelic music covering 1966 to 1970.

This is a relatively new addition to my music library and as a result I’m yet to form a reliable opinion on the songs therein. However, during the cursory listen given for the purpose of this entry I can reveal there are some very strange additions. It’s no wonder that some of the over 60s are so weird.

Songs with titles such as Baked Jam Roll in Your Eye by Timebox, Vacuum Cleaner by Tintern Abbey and In My Magic Garden by Tinkerbell’s Fairydust and bands with far out names like Virgin Sleep and The Crocheted Doughnut Ring all come together for a four hour trip through the weirder parts of the genre. Its easy to see how many of these bands influenced each other and how even the lesser known bands had some influence on those who would become superstars.

What else is interesting is how the bands all seem to have formed from various liasions and chance meetings. Like with the prog and Canterbury scenes, band members would swap bands, ideas, songs and even drugs. Some would go on to do great things, others would end their days in a bar in Liverpool bemoaning the fact that they “could have been famous man”. As an observer, I often think about how modern manufactured bands don’t seem to be interchangable. Ok you sometimes get “projects” and “collaborations” but you don’t see the likes of say,  some guy out of 1D joining up with someone out of Steps and someone out of Back Street Boys to form a mega supergroup.

I blame home taping.

 

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Four Calendar Cafe – Cocteau Twins [#493]

Four-Calendar_Café For some reason, for years I thought the Cocteau Twins were a French band. Turned out Liz Fraser was just singing with a mouthful of gobstoppers or something.

This is the band’s seventh album is distinctively different to those that came previously with a much more mainstream appealing focal point and, disappointingly, the singing is intelligible.  Nice, middle class mid-nineties dinner party background for young aspiring professionals trying to show off how cool, hip and in touch with culture they are before they spaff it all off by getting married and having kids.

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Exile in Guyville – Liz Phair [#442]

Exile in GuyvilleHi there! Steelrattus again, on day 4 of his 10 day guest stint.

Today’s album is Exile in Guyville by Liz Phair. This is another of the majority albums that I don’t know, so for those in the same boat let me edumacate you. Liz Phair first hit the music scene in 1991, when she was 24, distributing tapes under the name Girly Sound. After a failed disagreement with a label over the style of her music she signed in 1992 with Matador. She began the process of recording, and the album was released in 1993. The album cover is a cropped topless photo of Phair, taken in a photo booth. From what I can understand, Guyville refers to the sort of sexist small towns where men are very much in charge. Phair says she lived in a number of such places, and presumably felt she did not fit in.

I’ve listened to the album, and it’s somewhat reminiscent of Alanis Morissette, Suzanne Vega, Tori Amos etc. Albeit Morissette was first active a couple of years after this. It has a fairly consistent stripped back sound, and therefore sounds pretty similar throughout. It didn’t really hook me though, and bounced somewhere between a 1 and 2/5. The album was critically acclaimed though, and has sold over half a million copies, so YMMV.

Phair didn’t release any singles from the album, so here’s the opening track…

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Echoes – Camel [#412]

Camel_EchoesShowcasing popular tracks from all their albums up to Stationary Traveller, Echoes is Camel’s “best of” compilation. If you’re curious about the band at all but too scared to sit through the complexities of Moon Madness or  maybe you’re intimidated by the cover art on Mirage, then grab a copy of Echoes and you’ll be alright.

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Dreamfish – Peter Namlook & Mixmaster Morris [#394]

Unknown-1Peter Namlook has appeared on the Music Project before. You might recall how I wrote about how basic and hellish his work sounded. Well, Dreamfish is no exception. Even with the assistance of a chap called Mixmaster Morris.

Anyone that calls themselves “Mixmaster” is obviously overconfident in their abilities. It’s like if I went round Banbury or Daventry calling myself Blogmaster Gnomepants or Spreadsheetwizard Stegzy; I’d end up facing ridicule, embarrassment and probably have to hide myself away. It’s clear here that what ever “mixing” Mr Morris does, it’s probably with the bag of cement that went to make the recording studio’s floor.

For the purpose of the music project I subjected myself to the full album. By the end of track 2 I was hoping that my iMac would stop working so I had an excuse not to continue listening to the dirge. Well actually, that’s a little unfair because out of the whole album it was track 2 that blended naturally into the ambience of the game of Elite: Dangerous I was playing at the time.

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Crazy Diamond – Syd Barrett [#319]

CrazyDiamondSticking with bearded half mast corduroy wearing hipsters; there was a time in the noughties when Syd Barrett was cool. Long after the weird guy had left or been ejected from Pink Floyd, albums showcasing some of the never heard before work circulated on the internet and were snaffled by fans of both the band and the tragic genius that was Barrett.

Of course at that time in his life, Barrett was too mad and daft to even know that this was happening. At least that was the story. I recall seeing a picture of Barrett in the press around that time showing him as a Tesco bag carrying, anorak wearing odd ball. Which I thought was sad.

One guy I worked with claimed that he knew more about Barrett than Barrett. Some said he was Barrett’s secret love child. Others whispered about him being a bit weird and how he had a peculiar musty smell that came from the Tesco carry bag he kept his anorak in. I suspect it was he that gave me this album. Whatever the origin of the album, no doubt I gathered it in my Tesco carry bag, put on my anorak and rushed home to listen.

Crazy Diamond is a triple CD comprised of recordings of Barrett from his recording sessions during his moments of clarity. There are lots of out takes and lots of tracks where he is clearly not all there. Outside of Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Barrett is not an easy choice to just wander up to and listen to. You have to know about the tragedy, the pain, the madness  and the mythos behind the man and the band. It’s all well and good to approach the album with musical ears and listen, absorb the sounds and the lyrics, but there’s an extra flake to the music. A flake that sticks out like some sort of musical 99 with raspberry topping and nut sprinkles. A flake that people without the knowledge dismiss and thus misinterpret the whole album.

And if that sounds like a load of guff. Maybe it was.

 

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Chronologie – Jean Michel Jarre [#271]

CHANGES+IN+MINDChronologie – Jean Michel Jarre

Hello, another guest post here from Steelrattus.

I first encountered Jean Michel Jarre as a teenager. I was very fortunate in that my mum worked at a library, so it meant I took a particular interest in books. Then in the 80s libraries started to have cassettes, and later on CDs. This meant I could listen to a lot more music than my pocket would normally afford, and I could also experiment a lot more. This is where I first strayed across Jean Michel Jarre. I wasn’t really aware of him being a popular artist – if his albums were in the charts I didn’t notice – although later on as an adult I realised he was pretty popular.

For those who have not listened to Jarre before, his music is synthesiser based. But there is, or at least was, something quite special about it. He did something different with it, weaving together a mixture of sound effects and music to create his own unique style. I’m not aware of anyone who has copied him, or anyone that he copied, but I suppose the most similar artist I can think of is Vangelis, yet he’s still markedly different. In my opinion Jarre has also managed that tricky balance of keeping a style, yet making each album different enough to be interesting.

Chronologie is Jarre’s eleventh album. For me it fits in with a chain of others, starting with Oxygene (his third album), and leading on to Equinoxe, Magnetic Fields, Rendez-vous, Revolutions, and then Chronologie. These particular albums all had a rather epic feel and a thread that runs through them. I hadn’t realised Jarre had released two albums before Oxygene, but I’m guessing there is a reason why I have never heard of them – every musician needs time to reach their best. There are other albums in-between these, such as Music for Supermarkets and Zoolook, but I don’t feel they fit the particular style of this list of six albums.

I again have to thank Richard-from-University for bringing me back to Jarre. Richard was also a Jarre fan, and he acted as a reminder to revisit the albums I’d loved as a teenager. Chronologie in fact came out when I was at university (release in 1993), so reminds me of those times a little.

I won’t give you a very VERY detailed analysis of the album itself. It’s eight tracks, simply named Chronologie Part 1 through to Part 8, which is typical of Jarre. As it’s purely instrumental Jarre also doesn’t give away any clues in terms of inspiration as such. The only real clue is the album name, and time does feel like an inspiration. More on that in a minute. I’m not sure what the cover art is supposed to represent, there are five figures traced in different colours. The first track on the album builds from nothing with a heartbeat, which is one link to time. Other tracks have fades with clocks ticking and chiming, reminding me a little of the Chronos theme from Ulysses 31. There are even what sound like the bleeps of digital watches used as rhythm in places. Overall I remember this album feeling a little different than his previous, a little more modern, and there are parts which could quite legitimately be danced to in a club. The album ends with a countdown, again set against the backround of ticking clocks and a heartbeat. Overall I really like the album, like most of Jarre’s music.

Reading about the album I learned the source of inspiration was Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, so there’s the time connection. Apparently Parts 4 and 5 started as compositions for a Swatch advert, although I don’t know whether they were ever used. I was also under the impression that Jarre played everything on his albums, but this one at least had four other musicians, three of them playing keyboards, and one the guitar.

I had no idea that videos existed for the album, but this is apparently a promotional video that was created for Part 4. Not exactly a great video but (a) curiously it features that save five figure theme from the cover art (b) it features Jarre looking moodily at the camera, and (c) the music’s good.

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Alapalooza – “Weird Al” Yankovic [#60]

_Weird Al_ Yankovic - Alapalooza Alapalooza – Weird Al Yankovic

Two posts today. Why? Well, I hate to spoil the illusion but I’m not just listening to one album a day, I’m listening to several so at time of writing it is June 2014 but confusingly, the previous and the preceding entries were both written in May 2014.  Even more confusingly, there is actually only one post today not two.

Why?

Well, firstly, since I started this project I have swapped over to an Apple Mac meaning that my previous music manager of choice, J River, won’t work unless I fork out a wedge of cash for the Mac version. Which I’m not going to do.

J River and ITunes both sort music differently. J River puts all the albums starting “The” down with the Ts, while, ITunes does as it pleases.

Secondly, although I am now an Apple bastard, I still use a windows laptop. So when I came to write an entry today I thought I’d check the running just to make sure everything is on track.

It’s not.

I seem to have missed a couple of albums which haven’t shown on my Mac. The first being Aeon and the second being this one. There are a few others, but I don’t care about them so in the interest of not having to muck about in the back end of this blog, I’m not going to cover them here and will delete them anyway.

Unless this happens again, or an album I really like is missing from ITunes, I will just stick with the alphabetised ITunes library.

So, Alapalooza. What’s it like? Well, it’s typical Yankovic fare. Spoofing McArthur Park (Jurassic Park), Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Aerosmith. Some amusing moments, some not so.

I can never be entirely sure how I feel about Weird Al. Some of his stuff is very clever, other stuff just feels forced or strained. This is one of those that sit in the middle. It helps if you know the music he’s taking the piss out of I guess.

 

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Music Project – Album #6: 4AD Presents…

4AD Presents the 13 Year Itch by Various Artists

This is the first of many compilation albums and the first of several sampler albums that I’ve collected over the years.

I’ve been a huge fan of Ivo Watt’s 4AD label since the early nineties. Watt’s distinctive production reverberates throughout all the artists borne from the 4AD stable. Throwing Muses, Belly, Lush, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, Department of Eagles…they’re all 4AD bands. What is unusual is that I was unaware at the time that the vast majority of them were 4AD artists. Indeed, at the time I was buying CDs and it was only in about 1991 that I actually started to pay attention to the studio and record label. So when the download frenzy of the last decade began I eagerly sucked every album I could from the 4AD label.

It was interesting at the time because I found it difficult to get most of the stuff I wanted legally due to licensing and limited editions. I would look full of whist at the catalogues and try to imagine what the songs sounded like. When I gained super fast broadband I was able to source the actual tracks and, no, I wasn’t disappointed.

13 year Itch  is a compilation sampler of the bands that were available in 1993. It starts with a rousing dose of shoe gazing with Lush’s Desire Lines, passing by The Breeders brooding about the Invisible Man and heading briefly into shady Brendan Perry (Dead Can Dance) territory (Perry performs a cover of Tim Buckley’s Happy Time) before nose diving into the This Is the Way, Part 2 climax with Ultra Vivid Scene. The zeitgeist of the 90s lives on through these artists and the 4AD label . If I was to relive my youth, I would want this to be the soundtrack. I would want to be a little older and better off than I was. I would also want to be hanging round with moody gothesque shoe gazers, talking about the impending doom of the approaching millennium, whilst sitting in bed sitting rooms that stink of Patchouli, joss sticks and couscous.

Wait…

I did.

I just described my early 20’s.

Sadly this album wasn’t playing.

If I was to do it again. I would expect it to be playing on my Sony Walkman or at least on my Sony CD player.

If you’re interested in 4AD this is the second best compilation sampler to get hold of. The first is the Uncut freeby, which I will probably review sometime in the next year.

http://www.allmusic.com/album/4ad-presents-the-13-year-itch-mw0001811485

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