Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

In Memoriam (P Henroit 1889-1944) – Les Joyaux de la Princesse [#623]

We’ve seen Les Joyaux de la Princesse (LDJP) on the music project several times before, so by this time we should be aware that yes, they have been associated with some far right philosophies and yes, they have looked at a history that some would prefer to be buried, but we should not bury history for how else can we learn the errors we have made in the past. Moreover, art should know no barrier and we should consider that, for all we know, even the Statue of David or the Mona Lisa may have hidden connotations no longer apparent to modern eyes.

However, readers also should remember that while some music in my collection has been associated with some less than savory organisations and times in history, even the likes of Band Aid and what they stand for are seen as obscene in some parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean that the music isn’t any good and, indeed, while I don’t agree with the politics and allusions made by such artists, I appreciate their work.

In Memoriam is LDJP’s second 2004 release and is a work that examines through noise, recordings and industrial ambience the life of Philippe Henroit, a staunch anti-communist and Nazi sympathiser in Vichy France.

Not knowing this when I obtained it, I enjoyed the music for what it is, atmospheric ambience overlain with recordings of a strong and passionate sounding French speech, a language that I have very little comprehension of beyond playing ping pong in La Rochelle. I suppose in my childlike innocence and ignorance, I am attracted to the haunting voices and sustained industrial music rather than the ideology and symbolism that is lost in aural exposition.

 

 

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From an Ancient Star – Belbury Poly [#620]

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Today I’m stepping back in time to add some of the albums I have bought since starting this project back in 2014. While I will continue to work through my album collection alphabetically, occasionally, once a month at least, I will post an album bought recently that  I may have missed alphabetically. One such example is todays offering from hauntology experts Belbury Poly.

From an Ancient Star is, in my mind at least, the soundtrack from a British 1970’s children’s TV programme from Ghost Box Studios. A young family, mother deceased, move into a spooky old manor house in rural Berkshire (because it always is); Two older children, brother and sister, their adopted younger sibling and scientist father.

Within the house they discover a “hidden door” which, it transpires, allows passage between a strange new world wherein the children have a most peculiar adventure. Freddie Jones or Patrick Troughton would be the old man living near the house with seemingly bizarre ideas, while rugged Patrick Allen would provide wise sensible fatherly words to his wild sounding children alight with strange tales, perhaps supported by his new girlfriend possibly played by someone like Caroline Munro.

Sadly, there isn’t really such a programme, but, upon listening, hauntological memories of Owl Service, Children of the Stones and Dramarama from the golden age of children’s TV are invoked. Its not hard to imagine the music being used in such programmes, yet the album is actually from 2009.

Belbury Poly have a really unique and imagination driving sound and I think of recent years, this has got to be my most favourite Belbury Poly album. From beginning to end, every time you listen, you get something new.

Or should that be reawakened memories from that parallel universe you slipped in from….

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Immortal Memory – Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy [#615]

Immortal_memory_-_gerrard_cassidy_-_front.jpgWhen she’s not wailing away hauntingly with Brendan Perry and the rest of Dead Can Dance, Lisa Gerrard likes to loan her distinctive siren call to other atmospheric music makers like Irish composer Patrick Cassidy (Hannibal {2001} and Salem’s Lot {2004}).

This pretty much sounds no different to any other Lisa Gerrard work and will no doubt appear in cheaply produced tense, moody-broody television dramas and films set in rainy locations and involving despairing situations such as wearing raincoats in Washington DC or the protagonist not being able to tell people about something awful they’ve uncovered because “the man” won’t stand for it.

I think if I really want to feel depressed and out of luck, this is the album I’ll listen to.

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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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Human Equation – Ayreon #597

Ayreon_-_Human_Equation

Human Equation by Ayreon

Human Equation is a double concept album from legendary Nineties/Noughties Dutch prog experiment Ayreon.

A man in a coma for twenty days struggles with inner demons and outside influences through internal song, each day being a track on the album. A supposed break from Ayreon’s  album spanning “Forever” story arch, although in the last track we do hear albeit briefly, from Forever of the Stars from the album Final Experiment and the Dream Sequencer from Universal Migrator which ties it all in nicely.

Human Equation is not my most favourite of Ayreon discoveries instead I’m all for the drama of Into the Electric Castle but as 01011001 hadn’t been released at the time I obtained my copy of Human Equation, it was a lid on the metaphorical pie of Ayreons work for me.

Like other Ayreon albums, guest singers each take a voice of a character within the overarching story with the likes of Dream Theatre’s James LaBrie and Soul Machine’s Eric Clayton joining the cast. Even prog keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman‘s son Oliver guests as synth player on track 7.  A feast of noughties prog.

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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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Guitar Legends – Various Artists [#563]

Guitar Legends The guitar. Some would say it is a crucial instrument in modern music. “Without guitar” they might say, “All you have is some bloke singing with drums and a keyboard.” Which is true, but as we have already heard with the likes of Morphine and Matt Howden, the guitar is merely a tool in the production of great music. However, one cannot ignore the guitar completely, especially when presented with a compilation such as today’s album.

This two disc 41 song Capital Gold compilation features some interesting choices. It starts off quite promising with songs by Queen, Derek & the Dominos (guess which song), Rainbow and even Motorhead. But by the mid-way point it drifts into a sort of smokey late eighties blues nightclub (the proper sort where you go to listen to live music and smoke not to get pissed and/or laid) where Skynrd, Frampton, Santana and Lee Hooker have been placed on the bill with later guest appearances by John Lodge & Justin Hayward, Nick Drake and the Shadows.

If, for some reason, you’ve been living in a guitar free world and you’re interested in finding out what can be done with the instrument, I suppose this is a good way to find out.

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Greatest Hits – Guns N’Roses [#555]

GreatestHits_Guns'n'RosesAxl Rose and his buddies cram 14 of their songs onto a CD and call it their greatest.

In my opinion, Guns N’ Roses are a band of a certain time. That time, for me at least, being between 1990 and 1994. Because, it’s during those years in my life that their music features regularly on my life soundtrack. Of course , it’s not entirely as straight forward as that.

Guns N’ Roses are one of those bands I have been continually told that I “should” like. I think that suggestion started when I expressed an appreciation in Iron Maiden but I may be mistaken. To be fair though, GNR did appear to be everywhere in the early nineties and were popular amongst my fellow pupils at school. Thing was, I was still too interested in Progressive Rock and Chris Isaak to be bothered by new comers.

On reflection, when we compare the likes of Yes, Bonzo Dog and similar aged performers, I somehow can’t imagine Axl Rose performing in a similar style when he’s in his 80s. The distinctive shrill shrieky vocals somehow won’t seem dignified emanating from an old man. But, while I’m not a fan out right, GNR are a band from my formative years and through the best of, or Greatest Hits release, I don’t need to venture further into the realms of their albums.

 

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Frustration Plantation – Rasputina [#504]

Frustration_Plantation Internet faves Rasputina saw their hauntological  American Great Depression era Old South sound into this their fourth studio release.

Considering my most favourite Rasputina release is their live album A Radical Recital which features several tracks from this album, you’d think I liked Frustration Plantation equally. I do and I don’t. I like the clarity that the studio versions bring to the table but I like the gritty, close knit communal feel of the live album which you don’t get from studio albums.

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Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand [#497]

Franz-FerdinandEvery so often during this music project I come across albums by bands I have heard of but can’t remember for the life of me what their song was that I liked or why I even have them in the collection in the first place.

I could lie and say I had always thought Franz Ferdinand was the geezer what got shot and started World War I. When of course I knew that there is also a popular music troupe with the same name and this is their first album. But until I came to write this entry, I couldn’t remember the name of their popular song.

The album Franz Ferdinand is a mystery to me. It sounds like nearly every popular music  band’s album of the time, a sound I like to call Angry Indie. Similarly, I have no idea what the appeal is for these guys. Unremarkable, carbon copy of other “indie” bands.

Ok, analogy time. It’s like drinking real ale and thinking that you can detect the hard graft, dedication and attention to detail that the independent brewer puts into their craft when all the while you’re drinking  mass produced slops rebranded by a major brewer like Scottish Newcastle.

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Feast of Silence – Vas [#466]

440px-VAS_-_Feast_of_Silence_AlbumcoverBack in the days of the Download Free For All Fest of the early noughties, some fans of fringe bands tried to hoodwink fans of other more mainstream bands into thinking that their obscure shite was a long lost recordings of said mainstream band.

Such is the case with Vas who, during this time, someone thought it would be a wicked jape to pretend Vas was some forgotten rare recording of gothic misery meisters Dead Can Dance. Had me going for about an hour. But it’s easy to hear how similar both bands are stylistically. Like with Love is Colder Than Death, Vas hold their own in a unique Dead Can Dance meets Ordo Equituum Solis blend.

Like DCD, the band use ethereal vocals and a mix of modern and traditional instruments. Like OES, the band use pining lyrics and ethereal vocals. Like LCTD and DCD, Vas use World Music influences extensively. Indeed, Vas are one of those talented bands who, had they had the backing of a good media machine, might have made it into more people’s record collections. A true gem formed of Persian vocalist Azam Ali and American percussionist Greg Ellis. Feast of Silence is the bands last album and was released in 2004 before they gave up and did other things.

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Farmer’s Angle (Revised Edition) – Belbury Poly [#460]

Another album of 1960’s government safety film music from Belbury Poly who we’ve also met before on the music project.

This time instead of sounding like the intermission music between programmes for schools and colleges, Belbury Poly manage to pull off a hauntological mixture of samples from Hammer Classic The Devil Rides Out (which in my opinion is the greatest film ever made), unique music to accompany a neo-fascist state’s “Inform on your Family” propaganda film and the theme tune to a Eastern European children’s cartoon about a communist cow.

Marvellous stuff

 

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Eye to the Telescope – KT Tunstall [#447]

Eye to the TelescopeHi there! Steelrattus again, on day 9 of his 10 day guest stint.

Today’s album is KT Tunstall’s Eye to the Telescope. I have blogger’s block at the time of writing this, so apologies if this comes across as me being a bit less involved than usual.

KT Tunstall first came onto the music scene in her 20s, between the late nineties and early noughties. She played in a number of bands, but then released her first solo record (this one) in 2004. She has subsequently released three studio albums, a handful of live and other special albums, and some singles for films.

As mentioned, Eye to the Telescope was released in 2004, although I had Tunstall on a hook that said “hip 90s music that I’m not cool enough to like”. I’m not quite sure what genre I’d put it in, and I couldn’t spot any classification on Wikipedia. It’s kinda folk-y, with a somewhat stripped down sound. The album has pretty good critical reviews. It yo-yo’d around the album charts for months, reaching a peak of No. 3 when Tunstall was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize. It sold 1.5 million copies in the UK, and over 2.5 million worldwide.

Again, this album isn’t quite my cup of tea. I wouldn’t be too pained to listen to it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to. I do recognise one of the tracks, which was presumably released as a single, or got some airplay. As always, YMMV.

Here’s the track that’s most familiar to me, Suddenly I See…

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (OST) – Various Artists [#434]

Eternal_sunshine_CD_coverThis will be the last week of Music Project entries before a two week hiatus unless someone comes forth offering to write for two weeks while I’m on the other side of the planet.

While not a great lover of  Michel Gondry’s 2004 rom-com starring Jim Carey and Kate Winslet, the soundtrack does have some nice songs on.

Which is, in part, why I keep the album in my collection. Happy Twee-rock and pop abound, with the likes of Polyphonic Spree, ELO and Lata Mangeshkar interwoven with Jon Brion’s equally twee romantic soundtrack.

Great for feeling twee.

 

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En Vivo En Obras – Nightwish [#428]

imagesThe only remaining bootleg I have of Nightwish although bootleg is a bit of a misnomer as it is actually a recording from a live radio broadcast with a few interviews chucked in at the end.

The recording appears to be of the band in Buenos Aires in 2004 and includes a number of my favourite Nightwish tunes.

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Elegy – Scream Silence [#422]

UnknownOften during this project  I have had feelings of regret that I am no longer the spritely free spirited young adult I was. Being unemployed meant I had ample time to sit around and listen to music. Being single meant I could listen to music whenever I wanted. Living in a flat on my own meant I could crank up the volume to annoy the neighbours with nobody to tell me off. But also because there was little in the way of access to new music for me meant that I could invest time in any new stuff that I was presented with by friends.

Sadly, Scream Silence weren’t around when I was in my twenties. Had they been so, I may have invested the same amount of time in listening to their music as I did with the likes of Dead Can Dance and Chris Issaak. Instead, in my early forties, I find it difficult to focus on an album in its entirety. Usually I have to put myself in a situation where I can’t skip tracks or turn it off but with Scream Silence I listened to the album in its entirety and, surprisingly, enjoyed it while yearning for those days where I could listen to whatever I liked whenever I liked, free from employer and commitments.

It’s crucial to remember from previous Scream Silence appearances on the Music Project, that I had only been keen on one song prior to obtaining their entire discography so that must say a lot about them. I really wish the singer would take some elocution lessons though; his accent is quite distracting.

Elegy is Scream Silence’s fourth studio album.

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Bourne Identity & Bourne Supremacy Soundtracks – John Powell (#213 & #214)

Bourne Identity & Bourne Supremacy Soundtracks by John Powell

Bourne Identity & Bourne Supremacy SoundtracksGripping drama needs a gripping soundtrack. From what was a promising start to a trilogy (that now seems to be developing into a larger multifilm series) comes John Powell’s tense soundtrack.

I think the composer did very well to capture the various nuances of the film with these soundtracks and it often drowns out the dialogue in the film. However, this is forgivable for without the soundtrack the excitement wouldn’t build as well as it did. Take track 3 of the first album, Treadstone Assassins; it definitely builds the tension, adds a little bit of “here comes a film that can even have it’s own spin-off TV series” and tickles the auditory senses with “wow, bet you didn’t expect that”.

Furthermore, the cold wet European locations used in the film are also depicted aurally in these soundtracks. Powell is definitely a composer to look out for.  Maybe not akin to John Williams or Danny Elfman, but certainly on the same bus….

Here I’d usually include a youtube video relating to the albums but it appears that the Youtube Copyright Nazis have been blocking access to most of the best ones. I really don’t know why copyright holders (like SONY) are such blanket fascists when it comes to digital media. I guess you’ll just have to watch the film….

 

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#165 – The Best of Era – Era

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 14.02.16 The Best of – Era

No. I’d never heard of them either. It seems that I must have liked one of their songs and downloaded all of their music in the hope of finding something original.

This is like a poor man’s Enigma. Lots of Gregorian Chants (Popular in the 1990s) and new age fiddle faddle. The kind of music you might hear in one of those shops that sell floaty vaginas, tofu knitting kits and yogurt weaving tools.

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Beatallica – Beatallica [#133]

Screen Shot 2014-09-06 at 12.14.48 Beatallica – Beatallica

Beatallica chucked out another EP in 2004 with 8 tracks. This is the EP that made people sit up and listen and realise that here was a band with a unique approach to family favourites. Bridging the gap between Granny and Kevin the Angry Teenager.

Unfortunately the joke was already now starting to wear thin.

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Aero – Jean Michel Jarre [#57]

urlAero – Jean Michel Jarre

Do you remember the 1970s? Do you remember those pristine vinyl records your elders kept lovingly in their sleeves. Tentatively taking the black discs out of their paper sheaves, popping them religiously onto the turntable and carefully lowering the stylus onto the run in?

Do you remember the smell?

Do you remember?

Jean Michel Jarres music takes me back immediately to that time. I can still hear the hum from the badly earthed amplifier, the smell of the vinyl and the visualisations of the mind where I’m transported from the chintz filled sitting room to the far off reaches of outer space.

You know the type of outer space I mean don’t you? The kind that resembles cosmic Mathmos lava lamps. Nebulae, misty clouds of cosmic matter, blipping and blopping (yes they are actual verbs). The kind of outer space that wouldn’t be amiss from a remake of Barbarella or some science programme with Jonny Ball. The kind of Roger Dean outer space with weird aquatic astral creatures and bloopiness.

Aero, is a kind of “Best of” revisited. Nice if you want to relive the cardigan wearing, garish carpeted childhood of the 1970s. Nicer still if you just want to pop some acid with your hipster friend while staring at their Mathmos glooping and shlooping about on the table.

It’s kind of thought provoking that this music evolved into Air.

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