Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Home – The Gathering [#589]

Gathering_homeDuring the Great Download Free For All of the mid-noughties when I was ripped from the comedy inflatable bosom of Nightwish and thrown grovelling at the awesome rock prowess of The Gathering, I was self-tasked with the necessity to obtain the band’s entire catalogue.

Fortunately, this was one of those times when such an action was worthwhile. Aside from the band’s first couple of albums, Always and Almost a Dance, which are both truly dreadful and were swiftly deleted from my collection, their other albums just kept on sending tingles.

The Gathering are another example of where the UKs coverage of quality Euro music is lacking. The downright snobbery of the UK music industry in regard to artists from beyond the North Sea frequently turns my stomach. There really are some excellent artists out there but because a minority have the monopoly on what is seen and heard in the UK, it is often the case that without the internet, nothing “non-British” would be available. Indeed, even with impending changes to the accessibility of internet this will only get worse and result in  further impedence of the spread of culture from east to west while the spread of culture from west to east will continue unhindered.

Home is The Gathering’s eighth album and the last to feature Anneke van Giersbergen who, in my opinion, made the band. It seems that 2006 was the time of departure for a few female led Eurometal bands (eg Nightwish and Tarja’s departure), but rather than disappear into obscurity, van Giersbergen went on to work with Ayreon and do her own stuff and quite successfully too. Like Mandylion, it has an almost progressive concept album feel to it but the concept album vibe might just be my overactive imagination.

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The Grand Design – Edenbridge [#545]

Edenbridge_-_The_Grand_DesignTowards the end of my exploration of the Scandinavian operatic goth metal movement of the late nineties and early noughties, and before branching out down the Ayreon/Gathering path, I uncovered an Austrian band called Edenbridge. Pretty much a Nightwish clone but with better pronunciation of English.

The Grand Design is their fifth studio album following the success of Shine. By this time, I was a little bored of the whole genre. There’s only so many Valkyries you can put up with and with middle age approaching, the constant chuggachugga guitar became a little puerile after a bit. As well, there was a kind of…I dunno…a Sandy Denny quality to the sound.

After some careful consideration, I had a purge of music in September and many Edenbridge albums didn’t make the cut. This one survived purely because it was the first of theirs I’d heard and because Evermore is not a bad song.

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Fur and Gold – Bat For Lashes [#506]

FurandgoldcoverMiddle class wank mag, The Guide which is usually given away in Saturday’s Guardian, once said that Fur and Gold was the album must have for the noughties coffee table and that if you were to be taken seriously by your painfully middle class Land Rover dinner party guests you should put this album on the surround sound system and look hautily at ones guests when they contemptuously deny all knowledge of its existence. And thus the hipster was born.

I “bought” this album purely because I liked the track What’s a Girl to Do? and because I kind of had a warm tingle whenever I thought of lead singer Natasha Khan. However, the rest of the album was a disappointment so I’m glad I only “bought” this album because of course downloading music for free, pretty much like uploading music videos to Youtube, home taping and bootlegging, killed what was left of the music industry.

Which might account for the reason why nobody’s heard of the band since.

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Eurovision Song Contest: Athens 2006 – Various Artists [#436]

For those not familiar with European traditions and culture, every year since 1956 European public broadcasters get together to find a song to unite Europe in culture.  In the UK, Eurovision is seen as a bit of a joke while the rest of the European Union see take it quite seriously. As a result it is often the case that the UK’s entry gets a low score while serious music producers across Europe are able to showcase a variety of talent which will never see the light in the UK because of inherent taught resistance to euro-culture, but will proliferate across more receptive mainland Europe.

Eurovision 2006 was possibly the most enjoyable Eurovision in the past 30 years.  2006 was the year that Goth and Rock culture broke onto the Eurovision stage with such ferocity that many returning countries in 2007 tried to mimic the whole scene too.

Unusually the contest started with quite sedate, run of the mill songs like:

Sense Tu Jenny (Andorra)

Je t’adore Kate Ryan (Belgium)

 

Other entries were more up beat such as Tornero (Romania)

and Congratulations Silvia Night (Iceland)

But while the tweeness of Switzerland’s Six4One’s If we all give a little was trying to capture the zeitgeist of peace and love arising from the conflict plagued noughties.

The shockingly bad UK entry, Daz Simpson and Teenage Life was like Timmy Mallet or Keith Harris trying to capture the gangsta culture.

But it was the winning entry, Hard Rock Hallelujah by Lordi (Finland) that resulted in the landslide victory that Eurovision needed to bring it back to centre stage.

 

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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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Country International Music – Sugarplum Fairies [#314]

Country International Music - Sugarplum FairiesBenny Bohm and Sylvia Ryder from sunny Los Angeles do their stuff again. We’ve met Sugarplum Fairies before on the music project so I don’t need to go into the reasons why they’re in my music collection.

What you get with Country International Music is the third album by the band. The rule of thumb is often that the third album is the breakthrough one. The album following the difficult second album.  Sugarplum Fairies have produced consistently good music but even Country International Music didn’t push them into the success they deserve. It’s a shit business is the music business and a cruel master.

I really don’t get it. Country International Music is a really bloody good album. Why it didn’t launch the guys onto the world stage with a bigger fanfare is a mystery to me. A bit like why so many people voted Conservative at the UK general election in 2015 or the disappearance of MH370. However, a number of songs from this album have appeared in popular American TV shows as incidental music. So I guess that’s a start.

Seriously, if you want some quality new music and you’re fond of shoegazery, husky voiced songs about corduroy wearing English teachers littered with clever references to Jules et Jim, get yourself onto iTunes or whatever you use and get some Sugarplum Fairies in your life.

I did.

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Black Ships Ate the Sky – Current 93 (#196)

Black Ships Ate the SkyBlack Ships Ate the Sky – Current 93

Black Ships is everything I could ever want from an album. Unusual styles. Big names collaborating with lesser known artists. Weird lyrics. Concept album.

I like to listen to this album when I’m feeling poorly or low. Meditative, the album reaches into the dark recesses of one’s psyche and stirs up visualisations of terrifying times. This makes me think of the classic woodcut from 16th Century Basle which depicts the aerial battle between black spheres and white spheres.

Black ships eating the sky

Of course it has nothing to do with that event, that is just me. The actual album has some manic tracks that invoke panic and fear interwoven with artists like Marc Almond, Bonnie Prince Billy and Anthony (of Johnsons fame) singing versions of the 1763 Methodist hymn “Idumæa” by Charles Wesley.

If you want your music to make you feel unusual, this album will do it for you. I suggest that you avoid consuming anything too psychotropic when you’re listening to it though. Some of the tracks and lyrics can be too stressful.

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The Best of Depeche Mode Volume 1 – Depeche Mode [#162]

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 17.20.12The Best of Depeche Mode Volume 1 – Depeche Mode

Worked a guy once who said that the greatest band in the world ever was Depeche Mode. Of course I mocked him.

A couple of years later after we had lost contact and I had changed jobs, I realised he was right. They’re so diverse. From plinky plonky synth shite in the early 80s to sophisticated synth ballads and remixes. DM are as multitalented as a room full of mature student graduates.

There are songs on this compilation that everyone over the age of 25 will remember and the urge to resist a bit of air drumming is hard.

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A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC – Hayseed Dixie [#30]

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 16.46.08A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC by Hayseed Dixie

You’ll probably now see a lot of albums that start “A Tribute” or similar. On the back of the artist of the previously reviewed album, Beatallica, I was introduced, through a conversation, to Hayseed Dixie.

Hayseed, as discussed earlier, were one of the many “tribute scene” bands that “fused” styles with artists in the last decade. I’m still waiting for a Folk version of Rammstein or a Tweecore tribute to something like Fields of the Nephilim. I guess I’ll have to wait.

I went to see Hayseed when they toured the UK. They played, and played, and played. The Student Union staff at Liverpool turned on the lights. They continued to play. The security unplugged their equipment. They continued to play. We left. They continued to play.

One trick pony.

I’m not a fan of AC/DC. I am aware of their works. But I am not a fan. I guess a lot of this is wasted on me.

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Music Project – Album #7: 9 by Damian Rice

9 by Damian Rice

He lies.
There are 10. Not 9. He might be referring to 9 albums. Or 9 pairs of socks. Or something. Not sure what. Don’t really care.

Rice is one of those artists I thought “Oh I like that song on such and such a soundtrack, I’ll get their other stuff because it must be equally as good” only to find out that the other stuff isn’t as good and fail in erecting my interest. Are you detecting a theme here dear reader?

Folky strumming at its least mediocre. You just know what the album is going to be like when you see track 10 is over 20 minutes long (Just over 5 minutes of music with 15 minutes of silence or imperceptible noise). Only a very few artists pull that trick off well. Mr Rice doesn’t. However I don’t want to be too harsh on him, think James Blunt with talent. Or maybe even David Gray with feeling. I appreciate Rice’s work for what it is. 9 is pleasant moody coffee table music that makes a moody Sunday afternoon coffee just that little bit more enjoyable. Of course, those that know me will say “Ah! But Stegzy, you don’t wear stylish clothes, live in a stylish apartment in Crosby nor do you sup black coffee on Sunday afternoons”. No. I don’t. But the person that does does. And the person that does listens to Damian Rice. I know. I’ve met him. Not Damian Rice. The chap in the flat.

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