Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

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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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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How We Quit the Forest – Rasputina #596

How_We_Quit_the_ForestIn the early noughties, while the rest of the internet and Guardian supplement cultured Gen-Xers were going wild for the likes of Amanda Palmer, the Dresden Dolls and the Decemberists, I was trying to be a proto-hipster by bigging up the likes of Rasputina.

Sadly, Melora and co didn’t quite make the mainstream as Palmer did but hey, that’s not the point, the point being to make memorable expressive opine music that lasts regardless of when in time it is heard.

This album contains the first track I’d ever heard by Rasputina, Olde Headboard, and is a prime example of why album sales in the post-internet age depreciated with audience consumption methods.

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How to Measure a Planet? – The Gathering #595



How to Measure a Planet? – The Gathering

Back in the mid-noughties I was directed towards The Gathering’s Mandylion album and swiftly became enamoured with the Dutch Prog-metal band. Yet, while Mandylion and Home scratched an itch, How to Measure a Planet? made sure that further irritants were applied to the metaphoric discomfort.

At the time I was a mature student studying Media at Huddersfield University which often required late nights of reading European Media Directives,  Media Theory and writing essays on audience paradigms. Sometimes, to get me into the study zone, I would listen to albums while wearing my headphones, often on repeat. How to Measure a Planet became one of those albums. Constantly on loop,  songs from the album such as Liberty Bell and Probably Built in the Fifties would often blur into each other in some sort of semi-hypnotic chant. Moreover, I would sometimes fall asleep, book flopping to my side, waking sporadically through the night hours to what seemed like an extended mix of the song I’d already woken and fallen asleep to. As a result, this album has a kind of important place in my life soundtrack.

How to Measure a Planet is the band’s fifth studio album.


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Greatest – Duran Duran [#550]

Greatest - Duran DuranThe problem with releasing your “best of” when you’re still an active band is, you might still be an active band in another 20 years. Such is the case with eighties popper, Duran Duran. Thing is, they’re still chucking out the odd song still.

I wrote about the other Duran Duran Greatest Hits/Best of compilation, Decade  in July last year. Greatest is the addendum to that. Effectively, this is all the songs from the 1998 compilation with the 5 hit songs that followed.

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Great Expectations (Original Soundtrack) – Various Artists [#549]

Great Expectations Soundtrack Like the goth genre, I came to this film late. Had I come to the film back in the time it was released, my outlook on life may have changed subtly.

Following a childhood meeting with a menacing Robert De Niro, Ethan Hawke falls for Gwyneth Paltrow, and, thanks to a mysterious benefactor becomes a successful artist in New York. Lots of painting and nookie ensues.

As well as being an awesome adaptation of a thought provoking classic piece of literature, the soundtrack is also well presented with songs by contemporary bands such as Mono, Pulp, Reef  and Poe, coupled with contemporary artists such as Scott Weiland, Tori Amos, Duncan Sheik and Chris Cornell. All compiled deliciously in an angsty way.

In a pre-Twilight late 1990s, this movie was instrument in the blossoming of many a youth emerging from the fiction of a post teenage world into adulthood. Much in the same way that the BBC’s nineties soaparama This Life did. Sadly I was too busy with work and other life distractions to notice but as soon as I did, I was out buying the Soundtrack and waiting for the DVD of the film to drop in price.

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Grand Theft Auto (Original Soundtrack) [#546] & Grand Theft Auto: London (Original Soundtrack) [#547]

Possibly one of the best, well thought out and inventive game franchises began back in the late nineties with the release of Grand Theft Auto a game noted, not just for it’s violence and adult themes, for its soundtrack.

I spent many late evenings playing the game driving round the fictional cities of San Andreas, Liberty and Vice Cities, with the soundtrack blaring out to the annoyance of any neighbours. I even popped the CD from my Playstation into my CD player and ripped the soundtrack to cassette to listen to while on the bus or on foot. A cassette that joined me later in my car. A cassette I regret making because, as we all know, home taping killed music (and computer games).

Indeed, when I was able to do the same to the soundtrack of the less than successful London themed spin-off, I further damaged the whole industry which, as we now know, is worthless.

While the original game’s soundtrack was inventive with a variety of music genres parodied by the game’s designers with original songs by fictional bands such as Slumpussy’s Gangster Friday and The Ballad of Chapped Lips Calhoon by Sideways Hank O Malley and Alabama Bible Boys , the London spin-off existed as a blend of 60’s pastiches without the same wicked streak of humour. As a result I felt a little let down by the quality and lack of attention to detail that went into the spin-off game.

The London spin-off was to be a harbinger of things to come, the soundtracks for sequels to the game, like San Andrea, GTA IV and V all relied heavily on existing real music by real bands. The humorous sly digs at the music industry lacking saved only by the sly digs at the radio advertising industry.

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Four Lads Who Shook the Wirral – Half Man Half Biscuit [#494]

Four_Lads_Who_Shook_the_Wirral_coverMore grumpy observations of the preposterousness pervading Britain from Nigel Blackwell and pals.

Four Lads Who Shook the Wirral is not an album with many memorable HMHB tracks on but it does come armed with the same bitterly amusing cynicism and acerbic observations of British middle class society as the other HMHB albums.

Surprisingly, despite the amount of HMHB I have, iTunes’ random play algorithm doesn’t seem to favour this album with it rarely appearing in any playlists. Which is a shame as I’d like to get to know it a little better.

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F#A# Infinity – Godspeed You! Black Emperor [#449]

FsharpAsharpInfinity_vinylFirst of all, many thanks to Steelrattus for covering the Music Project while I was away in Australia. It’s always interesting to read what other people think about the music in my record collection especially when presented with unusual albums. Nothing is more unusual than F#A# Infinity and it would have been interesting to find out what Steelrattus thought of it too.

F#A#Infinity is an entirely instrumental album consisting of three tracks. The apocryphal first track has many people suggesting that it is inspired by the events surrounding 9/11, but as the album was released in 1998, this is highly unlikely. Other tracks add to the foreboding the first with ethereal sounds imitating number stations. Moreover, parts of the album feature in the soundtrack for the zombie flick 28 Days Later.

The album is atypical of other GY!BE works, e
ntirely instrumental with huge dollops of mystery and hauntology to bring the listener to an indescribable soundscape.

Whenever I’m feeling a bit meditative, or if I’m trying to sleep on a plane I’ll pop this album on my music player, close my eyes and drift off to another place. I totally recommend this album if you’ve enjoyed any of the Les Joyaux de la Princesse or the albums by Japanese Mono.


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Exposition Internationale des Arts et des Techniques Appliques a la Vie – Les Joyaux de la Princesse [#445]

Exposition InternationaleHi there! Steelrattus again, on day 7 of his 10 day guest stint.

Just when I thought the album titles couldn’t get any longer… this. Although it seems this album might actually be called Exposition Internationale, if Wikipedia is to be believed. Anyway, Les Joyaux de la Princesse (The Jewels of the Princess) are a French band, if you hadn’t guessed already. They’ve been around since 1986, and their music is a rather odd mixture of ambient and neo-classical, mixed in with samples from both French music and speeches. Their albums are typically limited editions, produced in elaborate box sets.

Exposition Internationale (des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne) is connected to said event, AKA the 1937 Paris Expo, and I’m assuming includes samples from speeches made there (it certainly includes olde-worldy French speeches). This album was released in 1998 though, not 1937. Although there are 10 tracks overall, they clock in at various times, with the opening track at almost 20 minutes in length, versus another that’s only 7 seconds.

When Stegzy handed over the blog baton, he did give me some brief notes on the album titles, and in some cases a one sentence description of the album. For this album said description was, “what is this shite?!”. As required under the terms and condition’s of Stegzy’s Music Project I have listened to the album, in this case probably three times. Technically the first time I listened to it though I had forgotten the MP3 player was on shuffle, on a playlist of all 10 albums. “Hmmm”, I thought, “this is a rather odd mixture, but I like it.” Which goes to show that my music taste probably shouldn’t be trusted. The second time I listened to the album it just didn’t sink in, so I gave it a third listen. As further evidence that my music taste shouldn’t be trusted I kinda liked this album, perhaps because it’s so unusual. The ambient tracks are quite nice and surreal, although not all delicate ambient as it’s quite heavy and military in places. I probably could have done without the French speeches to be honest. I’d give this a solid 3/5, but I’m not quite sure what situation would lend to me listening to it.

Here’s the opening track, which will give you a flavour of the album…

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Duality – Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke [#399]

Duality_Lisa_GerrardSomeone spoiled my enjoyment of Dead can Dance’s Lisa Gerard’s solo work. Simply, they told me to listen to her music and imagine her singing while pointing at something really disgusting. Like a plate with a dog poo covered fork, or perhaps a bowl of green olives, or that video on social media of someone having something fished out of their ear.

Yeah, that did it.

This is Gerrard’s second  album without Brendan Perry, her first being the Mirror Pool, and is a collaboration with occasional DCD session musician Pieter Bourke.

As a result the DCD sound is almost there. It’s not entirely there but it is almost. It’s like a cup of coffee that’s almost coffee but turns out to be something like coffee substitute. It does, however, feature some interesting tracks that featured in the film The Insider.

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Desolation Row – Portishead [#364]

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 19.15.03See I like Portishead. I am particularly fond of their first album Dummy and their third album Third but the second album proved illusive to me until relatively recently.

The reason for this was because, following release, I was told “It’s shit” and “It’s not as good as the first one” by music loving friends of mine whose musical knowledge I once respected.

Of course many years passed following the release of Dummy and trips to HMV waned due to the availability of music through the likes of Amazon and file sharing. Indeed, many years would also pass until the release of Third but that’s a different story.

So when it came about that the internet was the gateway to all the music ever I set about to find the second album. Of course Wikipedia was in its infancy, the web was a bit shit and I had difficulty actually finding the second album. Probably because lots of people also had friends who told them that Portishead’s second album was shit.

To find the album I did what anyone else would do; search on newsgroups for the keyword “Portishead”. It was during this first search I found a wealth of different versions of Dummy as well as compilations featuring the band. I also came across this album, Desolation Row.

Desolation Row is a bootleggy fan compilation of live-ish performances of the band including Later with Jools Holland, Glastonbury (recorded off the radio by the sound of it), some French gig and a studio rehearsal. Mysterons appears twice and so does Sour Times and it’s kind of a low budget version of Dummy with a few extra tracks. Not a good place to start to get into the band really. My suggestion is to stick with Dummy and listen to it on the worst media playing system you have instead.

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Comparsa – Deep Forest [#295]

Comparsa - Deep Forest When I came across Deep Forest’s Music Detected I fell in love with their sound. So guess what I did?

If you guessed that I went and downloaded everything I could produced by the band, you’d be correct.

This music project should be a lesson to those that follow that path. Downloading albums purely because you like one album or because you like one song, is not a good idea. Comparsa is a result of such an instance.

It contains some ok tunes but not on the same level as Music Detected and it contains some remixes of songs that would eventually develop popularity due to their over use in online videos. It’s still clearly early days for Deep Forest on this album.



Coming of Age – Camel [#292]

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 14.20.52 A live compilation of songs by prog maestros Camel showcasing work from Snowgoose, Moonmadness and later albums.

Sadly, during transfer from computer to computer over the years, my only copy of this album has now become corrupted; the majority of the songs now shortened by up to half of their original length.

Of course I’m too tight to buy it.

The tantalising audible glimpses of Camel’s genius make this album an excellent introduction to the band for those unfamiliar with their work but the lack of production, with it being a live album, doesn’t show the band in its best light.

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Big Lebowski (Original Soundtrack) – Various Artists [#187]

Big Lebowski (Original Soundtrack) - Various ArtistsBig Lebowski (Original Soundtrack) – Various Artists

The Big Lebowski is a film dear to me. If you’ve never seen it, it tells the story of a relaxed gentleman who has a problem with a rug that really sets off his room.

The stunning visuals and gripping script is only enhanced by the magic of the carefully put together soundtrack. Standing alone, the soundtrack is powerful in itself but you really need to see the film to feel how it is all significant.

The soundtrack features artists like Bob Dylan (meh), Captain Beefheart, Kenny Rogers and Gipsy Kings. If you’ve not seen the film, see it.

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