Harvestman In A Dark Tongue

[Neurot; 2009]

Styles: drone, folk, psychedelic
Others: US Christmas, Neurosis, Earth, Neil Young

Like embers fading to ash, only to glow again with the slightest breeze, the songs collected on In A Dark Tongue are persistent and vibrant. Harvestman, a project helmed by Neurosis guitarist Steve Von Till, draws a natural luster from heavy psychedelic meanderings and melodic riffs vaguely indebted to folk-rock, but it’s the pacing and smoldering dynamics he employs that gives the songs a truly earthy (and Earth-y) feel.

The album — united by its constantly shifting aesthetics more than any obvious thematic cement — embraces myriad sonic influences from deep drone, shoegaze and krautrock to traditional folk and bluesy psych-rock. Von Till’s musical wanderings in combinations of melody and timbre ultimately spawn a sort of music-as-spirituality mantra, making it’s most “metal” attribute its ability to draw images of ancient rites and polytheistic mythology. Though his music is mostly instrumental, Von Till, like OM (whose Al Cisneros plays bass on “The Hawk of Achill”), harvests the trance-inducing power of heavy riffs and adds a heavy dose of blissed-out atmospherics to make the music feel at once innately grounded and otherworldly.

The resonant prog-lite melody that establishes “Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail” might prove the album’s most direct and accessible moment, but even this track develops a meditative quality through repetition and subtle modal variation. When it dissolves in its final 30 seconds to make way for “Headless Staves of Poets” — which opens with somber violins and spiderweb-thin guitar tones — the character of the album as a whole is apparent. Although the two tracks differ wildly, they’re bonded by a common motivation to explore not the farthest reaches of sound and structure (though there is plenty sonic exploration to be found), but music as a means of communication beyond the human realm.

Like watching a fire burn itself out, embers fading to ash, smoke trailing off into the sky, there is something ephemeral and elemental about Harvestman’s music. It’s something that makes categorizing In A Dark Tongue both difficult and irrelevant. Although it’s anything but standard in sound or structure, it feels immediately accessible, compelling for its very nature of being.

Links: Harvestman - Neurot

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