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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The Images We Get – Sugarplum Fairies [#613]

Unknown-2.jpegThis is the Sugarplum Fairies’ fifth album following Chinese Leftovers and preceding Godspeed & Silver Linings and was the first crowdsourced/funded album I ever contributed to. It features the usual corduroy wearing English Literature teacher allusions and lyrical references as well as the haunting tones of Sylvia Ryder’s vocals.

Every time I listen to SPF I imagine the life of a female English Literature student besotted with and embroiled in a steamy Truffautesque relationship with their older corduroy jacket with leather patches wearing teacher. Lying post-coitally semi-naked on a bed in a smoke-filled wooden panelled windowed room. Copies of classic literature strewn hither and thither. Perhaps, as the album title suggests, that’s the imagery the band want us to get…

 

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Ghosts of California – David Galas [#521]

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I love every second of this album and, as my wife will testify, I must have listened to something from it every day since I bought it in 2011. This is David Galas’ third solo outing, which, in my opinion, is probably his finest.

The dark brooding of Galas’ first solo album The Catacylsm has matured in the moody bath of The Happiest Days of My Life (his second) and emerged as a dark and haunting anthemic opus.

While The Happiest Days of My Life was initially a little hard to ingest I took well to Ghosts. From the opening gambit (a recording of air traffic controllers during 9/11 segueing into the atmospheric Sect VIII) to an acoustic version of The Last Days of War my favourite track from The Happiest Days of My Life, every second has been carefully thought out and produced to an excellent standard.

My only regret is that this album hasn’t had the recognition it deserves.  Few of my friends have heard it, even fewer care, and yet I do truly believe that despite all my attempts to encourage others to listen to it, if they really gave it a try, they too might get the same enjoyment as I did. I just hope that through this Music Project I might encourage a few others.

 

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Garden of Dilmun – Seventh Harmonic [#509]

garden-of-dilmun-1It seems almost as if there was an explosion of artists heavily influenced by Dead Can Dance and Ordo Equituum Solis. Seventh Harmonic are an all female band featuring Ann-Mari Thun of Arcana and Caroline Jago of Sol Invictus fame.

Seventh Harmonic’s Garden of Dilmun was sold to me through well placed adverts on social media and email bombardment promising me that the band were the next best thing since Dead Can Dance. It also came highly praised by a reviewer on music site Heathen Harvest. The samples I heard on Youtube did sound promising and, being a wannabe hipster, I parted with my cash and waited for the the album to arrive from abroad.  It arrived and sat, still in its shrink wrap, on my desk for a period of months and two house moves before being listened to on a particularly gloomy day when heading into Banbury.

And no, it’s nothing like Dead Can Dance. It’s dark, I’ll give it that. Aurally invoking mental images of cavernous halls and cathedrals bedecked with banners, filled with etherial mist, knights of yore twatting each other with swords and Vikings rowing across placid lakes to give a monastery a good old sacking. I like it a lot.

Unfortunately, in my recent years I’ve found that listening to music is a luxury afforded only on a Saturday afternoon or maybe when the wife is away if I can be arsed. And so, Garden of Dilmun became one of the last albums I bought in CD format. My existing music library groaning under the weight of the gigabytes that it is formed of and thus spawned the Music Project. It’s many year mission to listen to every album in it, at least once, thin out those albums that don’t appeal and celebrate those that bring joy.

 

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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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Fly From Here – Yes [#483]

220px-Fly_from_HereIn my eyes, Yes’ best but final album. Technically, this isn’t Yes’ final album but it is the last one I bought before Chris Squire’s death in 2015.

Following the departure of long time lead singer Jon Anderson who was undergoing throat issues and Wakeman who was busy being a grump, Squire, Howe and White looked to former band mates Buggles – Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn, to reform the line up that made Drama a hit.

Horn obviously remembered how difficult Squire’s music was to sing when you register no longer reaches the notes of your youth and opted to produce the album instead. At this point surrogate singer Benoît David was asked to join the band, David’s singing style having been recognised by Squire who had seen David’s performances with Yes tribute act Close to the Edge on Youtube.

Aurally, Fly From Here is very much in the style of Drama era Yes. In fact, the song from which the album’s title comes is one that Horn and Downes worked on that almost became a Buggles song before they joined Yes. I really like this sound of Yes. It shows how the band might have developed had 90125 not happened, a richer more illustrative sound with a strong prog taste. The final flourish and farewell, in my eyes, of a band that helped me enjoy music as a developing youth. My only regret being that I never had the free time my youth afforded me to listen to the album on a regular basis.

 

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Castlefest 2011 – Various Artists [#252]

CastlefestCastlefest 2011 – Various Artists

If you didn’t already know, Castlefest is a mediaeval fantasy festival held annually in the Netherlands. I’ve wanted to go for years. We don’t have stuff like Castlefest in the UK., though I suppose the closest thing to Castlefest in the UK is Fellfoot Woods which I’d also like to go to one day. However, I’m now getting old and festivals equate to the darkest recesses of horror. It’s also in the Netherlands and that’s miles away. So it’s very unlikely that it will become a reality.

A number of artists appearing in this music project have also appeared at Castlefest; Sieben, Faun, Omnia to name but a few. This album is a selection of songs from the line up at the 2011 Castlefest including:

Song title:
Artist:
Free Omnia
Fjarilar Leaf
We Wait For Them Sieben
Oberon Und Titania Omdulo
Jan Mijne Man Nuraghi
Los Ojos de la Mora Irfan
Linaun Dance Iliana
Jigtime Kelten Zonder Grenzen
De Mundi Statu Corvus Corax
Judged By Euzen
Hymn to Pan Faun
Roots Aero Fragment
Grone Lunden Omnia Poetree
Sjon Valravn
Horizon Vic Anselmo
Berliner Pflanze Berlinskibeat

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90 Bisodol (Crimond) – Half Man Half Biscuit [#14]

90 Bisodol (Crimond) – Half Man Half Biscuit

There are these four blokes from Merseyside in the UK who formed a band and stormed the world with their music. Unfortunately they were very over rated, one had such a big opinion of himself he got shot; another took too much drugs in India; the third couldn’t play or write any good songs and the fourth is popular with the ladies for some reason.

They were shit.

Then there was this other group of four blokes from Merseyside. They too formed a band and stormed the UK with their unique sound, acerbic lyrics and cutting social commentary. They are not known well enough. I hope this corrects itself soon.

HMHB, to those in the know, have been going for many years. The late John Peel listed them as one of his favourite bands. I do too. 90 Bisodol is their most recent album and it performs very well.

As with most new music it does take a while to get into but I think Excavating Rita (a humourous song about necrophilia) was the first song on the album that grabbed me by the funnies. But it wasn’t long before the sarcastic account of mischief around a village fete in Fun day in the Park (They lied to me they lied to me on their posters!) that had me hooked and landed like a gasping trout. Side ways jibes, observation and commentary on British middle class society permeate HMHB songs. Sadly I worry that their unique observations do not translate well to other cultures beyond the UK. Do Americans have issues with local scolds on lower walks? Do Europeans understand the concept of attempting to descend the Stiperstones or cross the road without drawing attention to ones self? I don’t know. What I do know is HMHB talk to me like I talk to myself. Which is a good thing right? I mean I talk to myself all the time. Its the only way I get a sensible answer sometimes…..

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