Stegzy's Music Project

A commentary on Stegzy's album collection

Incantations – Mike Oldfield [#629]

Incantations_(Mike_Oldfield_album_-_cover_art)Incantations is Oldfield’s fourth album following Ommadawn and precedes Exposed. Musically, this album features themes and motifs that are repeatedly used throughout the four sides accompanied by Oldfield’s stylistically familiar circle of fifths.  Through his guitar wankery, his use of choral and a folksy solo by his singer du jour, Steeleye Span’s Maddy Prior (doing a really good impression of Renaissance’s Annie Haslam), the whole album just screams Mike Oldfield.

Incantations requires a good set of headphones, a good red wine and a badly earthed hi-fi for that true middle-class seventies dad experience. It is sadly too minimalist for casual listens and, like most of Oldfield’s work, definitely requires the listener’s full attention to appreciate fully.

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If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You – Caravan #604

Car-IfIThe thing with Canterbury scene folk music is it is as incestuous as progressive rock in that band members swap around like couples swap partners at a swingers party. Indeed, along with the band members, so also comes a very distinctive sound that pervades the music like the sort of odour that lingers inside a musty old caravan. Moreover, Canterbury scene bands blur the prog rock/folk boundaries and it is often difficult to pigeonhole your selected band into the correct genre.

When you listen to the likes of Caravan, it’s not surprising that it seems so familiar. Indeed, two of the band’s members, Richard and David Sinclair, later joined Camel. But apart from that, one can detect influences both from and to the likes of Gong, Spirogyra, Trees, Renaissance and even Greenslade. I ended up with this and three other Caravan albums following a deeper investigation of bands featured on The Best Prog Rock Album in the World…Ever compilation.

If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You is the band’s second album. Released in 1970 and features the original line up of the band – Pye Hastings, David & Richard Sinclair and Richard Coughlan. It also features a rather prog-a-licious heavily jazz-influenced 14 minute track For Richard. 

 

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Hurdy Gurdy Man – Donovan [#600]

Donovan-The_Hurdy_Gurdy_Man

The Hurdy Gurdy Man by Donovan

So you’re a film producer and you are wanting to set the scene of your hippy fest movie set at the height of the 1960’s hippy movement. Or maybe you’re just a young person experimenting with retro drugs. Or perhaps you’re just old looking, with mad long Gandalf hair and matching beard dressing in army fatigues. Chances are you’re using the title song of this album to project some kind of ennui.

While Jim Morrison was riding on his storm and Hendrix was wanking his guitar. Manson and his family murdering people and John Paul George and Ringo were discovering drugs, Scottish folk artist Donovan was writing far-out folk tunes like some sort of Scottish Bob Dylan.

Legend has it that Donovan wrote the eponymous title track for his pal Mac Macleod and his band Hurdy Gurdy. However other sources, mostly Wikipedia and Donovan himself, say the song was written whilst visiting mystics in the Indian subcontinent with John Lennon, George Harrison, Mia Farrow and possibly every other Tom Dick and Harry from the music and art scenes at the time. Moreover, Donovan has performed the song with a verse he claims Harrison wrote for him so I guess there’s some truth in that.

When I obtained the album I was exploring music from the sixties looking for artists and albums I had possibly overlooked. I was already familiar with the title song so was interested in hearing other works by Donovan to see if there was any “connection”.  Sadly there wasn’t but I’ve kept it in my library purely for the “just in case” option.

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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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Faun at the Pagan Folk Festival – Faun [#463]

Unknown-1Yet another visit from Music Project denizens Faun who’s last appearance was in January 2015.

This is Faun’s 5th album and their 1st live recorded in Utrecht in 2007. I don’t remember ordering this CD but it arrived on my door mat one morning at a time in my life when I was actively listening to the Aural Apocalypse as a way to discover new and interesting bands in the darkwave/neofolk genres. I suspect that I heard them on there first, but then I’m not sure because this live concert also features guest spots by In Gowan Ring and Sieben, both artists that appear on the fabled Looking for Europe Neofolk Compendium.

Regardless, I remember listening to it for the first time only to hear the lead singer proclaim

“Please welcome on stage Mr Matt Howden”

Matt Howden (aka Sieben, Sheffield’s own neofolk superstar) then begins to play his violin along to Rad to much audience satisfaction. Wow. But then, to further turn the album into a squee fest, Faun do a cover of my favourite Sieben song Love’s Promise. Mind. Blown.

It was this album that made me realise that the tight community of internet backed musicians collaborate, much like the old Prog musicians of Yore, making me feel all warm and tingly inside. It also made me realise that Germany and continental Europe have a much more diverse and vibrant musical culture than the UK claims itself has.

 

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Compass – Jane Taylor [#296]

41-Bz6piNsL I’ve just learned from that know-it-all friend we all have called Wikipedia that in January 2011, Compass won Best Album in the Singer-Songwriter Category at the 10th Annual Independent Music Awards – well there you go something new every day eh? I also learned that that happened when the album was re-released after her pregnancy coincided with the first release. This all makes sense, as I remember her say on 26th August 2009 when I saw her play in Bilston that she was only just back at work after having a baby.  I took the date for this from my own spreadsheet, but I’ve just discovered it listed on Wikipedia too, which is slightly disappointing, what is the point in me keeping meticulous records if Wikipedia does it too? The reason I recorded it is I keep a spreadsheet of all the Ezio gigs I have been to since March 2003, and the one and only time I have seen Jane Taylor perform was supporting Ezio.  Support acts can be a bit hit and miss, sometimes I have gone only to see the support, other times I have arrived late to miss a support I had no interest in.  Luckily on 26th August 2009 my friend Amanda and I arrived in good time to see Jane Taylor play, because I bloody loved it.  I bought Compass on the spot, and have played it regularly ever since. I can’t say the same for her other album Montpellier, which I really didn’t rate at all, but that is just how it goes sometimes. So what is it about this album that makes me love it so much?  Maybe it talks to me of all those feeling that make up the human condition, all those moments you think and feel too much when you are awake in the middle of the night? I find the first track, Cracks, astonishing.  The combination of the soaring lyrics and strings create an enveloping sound.  I think this is my favourite of all her songs. Hallelujah, about the death of a grandmother cannot fail to make you think of your own grandparents.  It paints such an accurate image of childhood impressions of old relatives; carpet swirls, singing, jewellery and inherited resemblances. The title track, Compass, is stuffed with the feelings of a diminishing love affair.  Whenever I start listening to it I think ‘this isn’t one of the best’ but by the end I’m right there with her.  I think this is a particular talent of hers, drawing you in with her emotions before you realise you’ve felt this yourself, whether it was last week, last year or decades ago. ‘I’m fine’ is the song that when I heard it live decided the question of CD purchase.  I’m known for my dislike of anything “too jazzy” but this is just jazzy enough to be below the threshold for me. Sadly that one gig in 2009 is the only time I’ve seen her play live,  She’s never played locally and conveniently enough for me.   I still get the emails and hope that will change sometime in the future.

cracks
Jane Taylor – Cracks

all things change
Jane Taylor – All Things Change

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Changes in Mind – The Golden Dawn [#259]

CHANGES+IN+MINDChanges in Mind – The Golden Dawn

The Golden Dawn were a group of enlightened spiritual adventurers devoted to the study and practice of dark arts, occultism and paranormal activities. This basically means they liked to meet in creepy places, have sex (possibly with each other) and take hallucinogenic drugs. Which is what everyone likes to do really.

However,  in the time of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, such things were frowned upon by stuffy types in society. So it’s no wonder why wealthy people dabbled in a bit of old “wakey wakey Satey” in remote places away from prying eyes, what with everyone else being so repressed and stuck up their own arses and everything. Naturally, good old Aleistair “I’m a complete nut case” Crowley, thought it would be a good idea to be a member but he was a little too weird for the other members. So when the Golden Dawn booted him out, Crowley went off to form his own “Let’s all wank in a box” cult and eventually popped his clogs in a guest house in Hastings.

So imagine my delight when scouring Jamendo, a music site where artists provide rights free music (for use in Youtube videos and the like without the worry that Mr Sony will ask you to take down the video), I found a band called Golden Dawn. “Brilliant” I thought, “Some sort of dark satanic goth music to tickle the old occult glands”.

Disappointed isn’t in it. Surprised, yes, disappointed, no. This isn’t Black Mass. It isn’t death growls and tortured souls. It isn’t even worthy of playing backwards in the hope of some vague musical artefacts that you could mistake for Satanic messages. This is nice plinky plonky electro-psychadelia from songwriter/guitarist Nick Gent and lead guitarist Ben Skultety, who, it seems, have about as much satanic wizardry in them as Sooty.  It also seems, that they have since changed their name to The Mind Orchestra. Probably because of the hounding from nutters hoping to find darkly satanic occult music to have sex and take drugs in creepy places to.

Changes in Mind, is available from Jamendo in it’s entirety for free. Golden Dawn are a nice fit for those looking for simple sounds to aid them with their moody beard stroking or beret wearing but possibly not for those hoping to raise the Goat of Mendes.

 

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Buch Der Balladen – Faun (#229)

Buch Der Balladen - FaunBuch Der Balladen – Faun

If you know me well enough, you’ll know my most favourite instrument is the hurdy-gurdy. There’s something enchanting about the Hurdy-gurdy that adds that little sprinkling of the fae to any situation.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Bridge over troubled waters – Simon and Garfunkel (#222)

Bridge over Troubled Water - Simon & GarfunkelBridge over troubled waters – Simon and Garfunkel

In one of those odd little moments of synchronicity the day my beloved asked me to write about this it was mentioned in a book I was reading ‘the unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ where a bridge by a West Country pub is credited with being the inspiration behind the name. This may not be true, but Paul Simon is well known for his affection for England (and his English girlfriend who couldn’t face life in the limelight).

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#148 – Beltaine – Jennifer van der Harten

Beltaine - Jennifer van der HartenBeltaine – Jennifer van der Harten

Jennifer van der Harten is the cute hurdy gurdy playing harpist from Omnia.

Here she plucks and sings her way through several traditional folk tunes on the harp with the same grace and haunting of Ordo Equitum Solis but without the dark creepiness.

This appears to be van der Harten’s first foray into solo work and it makes an excellent aural accompaniment to  any day filled with peace, joss sticks and dyed voile curtains.

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#146 – Bell Boots & Shambles – Spirogyra

SpirogyraBell Boots & Shambles – Spirogyra

The most influential prog folk band of their time and yet few people have heard of them. Spirogyra were formed at the height of the Canterbury scene and comprised of Martin Cockerham, Mark Francism Barbara Gaskin, Julian Cusack and Steve Borrill.

Angry progressive folk with political overtones. Just what today’s folk lacks. Significantly. Show of Hands doesn’t count.

 

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Album # 62 – Alive – Omnia

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 11.38.17Alive – Omnia

Somewhere in the mists of the mind exists a world of beardy weirdies playing hurdy gurdies and singing about fauns, elvenfolk and witches.

Somewhere in my record collection, here in fact, that world is recreated in sound.

Omnia class themselves as Pagan Folk and its not difficult to hear why. This is the type of music that has clearly evolved from the unity of Goth and New Age. Or morphed out of some Emo/Tweecore/Folk fusion.

I first came across Omnia while looking for a lesser known band Omniac . I never found more than I already knew about Omniac but instead my ears were treated to harps, traditional percussion and hurdy gurdy backed tunes with bearded weirdies reciting neofolkesque lyrics. A joy to behold!

So if you’re ever thinking of holding one of those happy gatherings in your leafy glade of a living room or back garden, this is the music you will want piped through.

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A Song for All Seasons–Renaissance [#43]

imageA Song for All Seasons–Renaissance

 

I first came across Renaissance in 2002 when I used to subscribe to Last.fm’s radio service.

 

In case you didn’t know, Last.fm supposedly checks what you listen to and then finds artists you might like and plays samples of their music mixed in with yours.

 

The song that kept being played was Northern Lights. It was one of those songs that made me think “Here! I’ve heard this before!”. It was more than probable that I had.

 

Keen to find out more, I spent a week downloading their catalogue and rapidly falling in love with their music. Bewildered by the fact that I hadn’t actually heard of them before that day.

 

They’re a mix of folk and prog. Prog folk? Maybe. Kind of like Fairport Convention meets Yes.

 

No..that’s not it.

 

It’s similar. But not.

 

Anyway, make your own mind up and, as usual, I would be interested to hear what you think about them too.

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