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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Jardin D’Eden – Arom [#647]

Album Cover Back before the great internet download free for all of the early noughties and way before iTunes, Amazon Prime and Spotify, pioneers of the internet created diverse websites which fostered creativity instead of stifling it. One such groundbreaking website was called Peoplesound which encouraged and facilitated unsigned bands to release their music through the site who would curate and aggregate their works to potentially new fans.

For many bands this would be their first foothold into the world of music, indeed, a number of former Peoplesound artists went on to be hugely popular for example Sugarplum Fairies to name one. But more on Peoplesound in the future.

One of the Peoplesound artists I fell for was a french group called Arom. Now, if you’re ever thinking of starting a band, can I suggest that you use a word or phrase that is Googleable because Arom brings up all sorts of results, very few if any, relate to the band Arom. Or, for that matter, the band Arom I’m writing about, as it appears there have been several other bands with the same name.

The particular itteration of Arom we’re interested in today is one, possibly from France, maybe Canada or Belgium,  who have a bit of a “Bjork meets Portishead” sound. I actually have two versions of the album – the Peoplesound EP and the official album which is available on Apple Music.

The Peoplesound EP (2000ish) features 5 tracks, 3 of which, after much post-production, made their way to the official album (2007) which features 11 tracks – all of which have been heavily processed and, in my opinion, have lost the haunting focus of the EP.

Jardin d’Eden by Arom is available on Apple Music and Amazon

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Insane Times – Various Artists [#634]

 

61FhX7u36eLInsane Times: 25 Psychedelic Artyfacts from the EMI Vaults is a compilation album of really odd music. I’d say completely odd but the inclusion of Bonzo Dog, Yardbirds and Kevin Ayres kind of bring the oddness down a bit. It is though, very much the Psychadelic Rock version of the folk anthology Gather in the Mushrooms

Amongst the bands appearing in this compilation are Mandrake Paddle Steamer, Simon Dupree & the Big Sound, The Lemon Tree and The Orange Bicycle with some oddly familiar yet new to many songs. I saw this compilation as a gateway to new-to-me and interesting acts from the psychedelic era, about the time when the Beatles were farting about with Sergeant Pepper and lots of drugs and indeed, there are subtle beginnings of some huge prog acts within this album and bands in which young prog stars cut their teeth.

Very much an interesting selection.

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In Rainbows – Radiohead [#624]

Never really been a big fan of Radiohead, Creep and Paranoid Android were my limit. They were always one of those bands people told me that  I “should like”. Like it was some edict from above. “You should like Radiohead”.

I didn’t.

Despite having their “Best Of” I still really don’t get the whole Radiohead thing. Maybe it’s one of those “You had to be there” kind of things. I was there though, I just didn’t pay attention.

In Rainbows was the first pay as you feel album I bought. I paid £1 for it purely because I wanted Nude which was also £1 and I’m such a stiggler for a bargain. Though to be fair, I only wanted Nude because of this video.

 

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I Swear by All the Flowers – Life Towards Twilight #603

a1910193660_16.jpg Experimental weird shit from American weird shit music makers Life Towards Twilight.

I guess if you’re into weird shit or if you like listening to someone playing a toy piano while also playing old gramophone records then this will really float your boat. Moreso if you want help to summon dark entities like Slenderman or the Gibberman to join you in your drug-fuelled slaughter fest.

Me? I guess I’m now too old and sensible to appreciate the aural artistry incumbent in this release. Maybe in 2007 when I downloaded the album for free, I was in a better frame of mind, appreciation-wise. But with the wife leaving the room in disgust during the listen for this entry, that is surely a sign that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

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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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Glorious: The Singles 97-07 – Natalie Imbruglia [#528]

Natalie_Imbruglia_-_Glorious_The_Singles_1997-2007Bitter sentiments from ex-Neighbours star and friend of Jason and Kylie, Natalie Imbruglia. An inherited album from the first marriage’s joint collection so it holds no special sentiment for me.

Imbruglia does the uplifting music to bitter lyrics thing quite well and I do like one or two of the songs from this album. Again, not an album I would usually either openly admit to owning or buy but some good tunes.

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From the Dark Side of the Moon – Mary Fahl [#501]

Darksideofmoon_albumNo, I’d never heard of Mary Fahl until I came across this album either. Mary Fahl is an American singer song writer and in 2007 I obtained an unofficial advance of today’s album which is a song-for-song reimagining of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

Mrs Gnomepants Mk1 used to say that cover versions are only valid cover versions if the artist doing the covering makes the cover their own. It’s only really recently that I’ve began to appreciate this statement fully.

I’ve always been fond of cover versions, my love of tribute artists like Iron Horse, Beatallica, Polka Floyd and Weird Al proof of this, so when it came to my first listen of  Mary Fahl I was already full of expectations. Imagine my joy when Mrs Gnomepants Mk 1 came into the room where I was listening to it and said that she really enjoyed this version of her favourite Pink Floyd album. That kind of sealed it for me.

If you’re a big fan of Floyd’s Dark Side, then you might enjoy this too. Fahl has certainly put a lot of effort into producing the album and it’s remarkable how a female voice can change the dynamic of the sound  originally made by Roger Waters. Fahl’s Dark Side has garnered a little bit of a cult following amongst some nerdy types which only adds to the enjoyment.

Then as a kind of postscript to this entry, while searching Youtube for examples of Fahl’s work, I came across her collaboration/guest appearance with Renaissance’s Annie Haslam. Again, highlighting how the music and artists I like are all connected somehow.

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Fragile Army – Polyphonic Spree [#496]

TFArmyCoverI’d heard of Polyphonic Spree in rumours, whispers and the occasional collaboration with other artists like Yoko Ono and  I wanted to hear more. So, during the Great Internet Download Free-for-All of 2007-2010 I was able to obtain a copy of Fragile Army.
I’ve always liked the concept of an ever increasing band, the community of music and the celebration of creativity fostered by bands like Polyphonic Spree and British folk band Bellowhead. Added to this, the open airiness and audible joy that emanated from what I’d heard of Polyphonic Spree’s music (notably You and I with Yoko Ono and Love My Way). However my joy was short lived as I started to realise that Polyphonic Spree was run like some sort of sinister cult like the Moonies or Hari Krishna led by a quasi-David Koresh figure. Furthermore, the sound becomes repetative, too similar and tracks become difficult to distinguish from.

That’s why my interest in Polyphonic Spree seems to tail off towards the middle of the album. Shame really.

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Fear of a Blank Planet – Porcupine Tree [#464]

Fear_of_a_blank_planetPorcupine Tree are another band that surprise me by hiding their albums of consistently good music in my collection. A prog band with more facets than a box of jigsaw pieces. Blank Planet is their ninth studio album with guests Robert Fripp (King Crimson) and Alex Lifeson (Rush).

In the last days of my degree, I was a mature student so this was quite recently, my television production lecturer and I bonded over our similar music tastes. I guess it was refreshing for him to have a student that understood prog and one who appreciated him getting Bill Bruford in to give us a lecture about media and drumming. So after an obscure prog band swap, he told me about Porcupine Tree. He told me I “should” like them. Now, long term readers of this project will recall how me “should liking” a band usually ends with “no I don’t”, but this is one of those rare occasions were they’re actually growing on me. I have now listened to this album for a grand total of 5 times and yes, it is growing on me.

In true prog tradition, Fear of a Blank Planet is a concept album based on the book Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis but with the twist being sung from the viewpoint of the child of the books protagonist. It’s suitably dark in tone with an apocryphal tale to tell about the growing reliance on technology amongst the youth.

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Fairy World 3- Various Artists [#454]

Unknown-2A sampler compilation of a variety of European artists which I received for free when buying some forgettable obscure music during the end of my exploration of the European Darkfolk genre.

Nothing memorable and apart from Collection d’Arnell Andrea appearing, I’ve never heard of any of the other artists.

Disappointing.

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Faces in the Rocks – Mariee Sioux [#452]

UnknownThe New Weird America (NWA) genre is relatively new to me following being introduced to the wonders of Marissa Nadler by a hipster friend of mine.

It’s easy to trace the allure of NWA from the likes of shoe gazing acts such as Mazzy Star and Talula Gosh to the more recent folksyisation of the shoe gazing genre by the likes of First Aid Kit and the weirding out of the sound by acts like Joanna Newsome. So it is no surprise, with all such acts appearing in the music project, that acts falling into the pigeon hole of NWA would appear too.

Mariee Sioux uses native American Indian influences to present her own unusual hauntological soundscape of wistful longing and sorrow, garnished with nature and laced with bitter resentment for wrongs committed by humans against humans, atypical of psychedelic folk.

 

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Exposition, Eaux-Fortes et Méandres – Collection d’Arnell Andréa [#444]

Exposition, Eaux-Fortes et MéandresHi there! Steelrattus again, on day 6 of his 10 day guest stint.

I think today’s album must have the longest title of all those I’m reviewing. Collection d’Arnell Andréa, a French darkwave band, have been around since the mid-80s. Curiously, Pascal Andréa left the band before their first gig, but they kept the name. The band currently consists of 7 members, that play a mix of cello, synths, keyboards, viola, and of course the lead singer. Apparently their live performances are known for featuring much larger ensembles.

Exposition, Eaux-Fortes et Méandres is Collection d’Arnell Andréa’s eighth album, released in 2007. The concept is based on Modest Mussorgsky’s 1874 Pictures at an Exhibition piano suite, which I can’t say I’m familiar with, but apparently contains ten piano tracks. Exposition, Eaux-Fortes et Méandres is mostly based on darkly themed 19th century paintings. The album cover, and title track Les Méandres, are based on a 1999 painting though, by Richard Boutin.

I listened to the album without knowing any of the above, and after making it through a few tracks I thought, “here’s a goth band from the late 80s/early 90s”. OK, so the date was a bit out. It’s definitely all rather dark sounding, against a backdrop of what sound like cheap synths. Not really my sort of thing, but I found it just about listenable to. As always, YMMV.

Here’s the aforementioned title track, Les Méandres…

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Eurovision Song Contest: Helsinki 2007 – Various Artists [#437]

500px-Eurovision_Song_Contest_2007_logo.svgPicture the scene. It’s 2006. Outsider, Lordi, have won the Eurovision Song Contest. Confused and out of touch officials around Europe scratch their heads in bewilderment. How can something as noisy as Lordi’s Hard Rock Hallelujah win by a land slide? Do the public know something others don’t? What ever the reason, imitation wins hearts and minds so let’s goth up our acts for 2007.

Which is exactly what happened. Especially with Switzerland.

The United Kingdom went all cheesy sleazy and failed.

Finland tried to win again (and this was my favourite)

But when it seemed that outsiders were going to win again, Plan B was put into action and Serbia’s entry won with Molitva.

After that, I lost interest in Eurovision for a few years…..

 

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Desire Rites – Sieben [#363]

Desire rites - Sieben [#363] We’ve met Sheffield violinist Matt Howden in his alternate guise of Sieben on the Music Project before. This was the first album I bought by Sieben having previously only heard the artist on the Looking for Europe neofolk compendium.

On this album Howden shows how his cheeky humorous side can be laced through his biting observational reflections on various aspects of life. From how the far right have propagated their disgusting agenda through some neofolk to the story of a besotted lonely projectionist, Howden uses this album to set the foundations for his later albums.

If you are new to the neofolk scene, especially the small presence within the genre of British artists, the talented Sieben/Matt Howden’s album Desire Rites is a nice intro.

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Dark Passion Play – Nightwish [#334]

Dark_Passion_PlayBy the time this album was released my affair with Scandinavian rocksmiths, Nightwish, was coming to an end. Tarja Tururen had been ejected from the band, the style had shifted and really I was getting too old to keep up to date with band member shiftings. I mean, it’s bad enough when Prog bands shuffle their members without Scandinavian metal bands doing the same.

So with reluctance, after having this album in my collection for nearly seven years unplayed, I popped it on. I managed two tracks. It was like going into a once favourite restaurant only to find it under new management. Sad really. But the way of most things in the modern times.

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Culture of Ascent – Glass Hammer [#331]

Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 10.39.54During my brief exploration of new prog, I was led to the door of Glass Hammer and their song At the Court of Alkinoos on the album Odyssey. I liked it. So when I was presented with a few of their albums by my university audiences lecturer, I was pleased to plug in and listen. For a short fleeting moment at least.

Gah. Forced. Strained. Prog. Not good. So aside from a few albums, this being the second in this project, I didn’t pursue Glass Hammer too hard.

The band’s tenth studio album, Culture of Ascent does have one saving grace though, Yes’ Jon Anderson in backing vocals and a cover version of Yes’ Southside of the Sky.

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Aphelia – Scream Silence [#81]

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 15.19.19 Aphelia – Scream Silence

German in origin, Scream Silence is another one of those bands that don’t seem to be well known in the UK. Can’t think why. They’re great.

Apart from the sometimes comical pronunciation of English, Scream Silence are just what you want from a post-Nickleback musicscape. With shades of Breaking Benjamin and European rockers Sonata Arctica, Scream Silence are an angry man’s musician of choice. Occasional death growls and loads of chugga-chugga, they have made some good albums.

This is not my favourite Scream Silence album, that honour going to Savourine. Aphelia, Scream Silence’s sixth release, is a good second base and recommended to those not wanting Rammstein’s German lyrics.

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A Noise Severe- The Gathering [#36]

A Noise Severe by The Gathering

I first came across The Gathering ages ago, specifically their album Mandylion. I was immediately transfixed. It was at this time that I started to realise how controlled the British music press and culture is. I did research and found very little in the way of acknowledgement in the UK that this bunch of Dutch rockers actually existed. Why? They had been going for a while, the lead singer was a hot chick called Anneke, and their music was enjoyable, diverse and melodic. So why? Why did they not have as much recognition in the UK than they had on the continent. After all, it wasn’t as if they were singing in Dutch or Norse or some weird Scandinavian dialect. They were singing in English.

And bloody good too.

A quick look at their tour history had them touring most of Europe. Big city gigs in the likes of Berlin, Amsterdam, Prague, Liepzig. Festivals all over the place (including Wave Gothik Treffen). But it seemed like they only played the UK a few times, and even then, far off obscure parts (London mostly). Why? The same issue with Ayreon, Sieben and many other artists. Absolutely massively popular in Europe and other parts of the world but in the UK…nothing. Or very little.

Anyway, this album is a live set featuring the lovely Anneke Van Giersbergen who belts out a proper pot pourri of The Gathering’s greatest hits. If you’re keen to try new “metal”ish rock and you’re looking for something different, coherrent and comfortable, I suggest you whet your appetite with this album. Favourites Probably Built in the Fifities and Strange Machines feature as do several tracks from the Mandylion and Home albums but yeah, I think it’s a good starting place if you’re unfamiliar.

So in what is becoming tradition, here is a little video of my favourite song from the album:

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A Bit O’ This & That – Emilie Autumn [#23]

220px-Emilie_Autumn_-_A_Bit_o_This_and_ThatA Bit O’ This & That – Emilie Autumn

I guess this is one of them “Oh you need to be a fan” type albums. I’m not a fan. I have no idea why this album is in my library.

I tried. I really did. I played 8 tracks off this before turning it off.

It must be one of those things. Age? Hearing? What I had for breakfast? No idea. Just guess it’s not my cup of tea.

Anyone want it before it gets deleted forever?

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