Harvestman: In A Dark Tongue


By Adam Wills

Neurosis’ Steve Von Till doesn’t seem to know the meaning of down time. After the band’s latest release Given to the Rising in 2007, SVT followed up with the incredible solo folk album A Grave is a Grim Horse in 2008, and has now released another solo venture, under the alias Harvestman.

2009’s In A Dark Tongue is built on the foundations of folk, yet wanders all over the musical soundscape throughout the 12 tracks, ranging from blissful layered guitar, to pounding electronic overtones, to a Gaelic inspired John Martyn cover. However, the album flows completely naturally, so the disjointed styles don’t seem out of place.

Opener “World Ash” serves as a fitting introduction – calming, and surrealistic tones set up the atmosphere perfectly for “Karlsteine”, which delves into a darker state of sound, only to be once again, calmed down by “Birth-Wood Bower”, reminiscent of the soundtrack to a 70’s nature documentary. “By Wind and Sun” picks things up with possibly the heaviest (and grooviest) track of the album, and also the lone track containing Von Till’s trademark raspy chants, which transform slowly into an expansive electronic cloud by the conclusion of the track.

Von Till then turns to some worldly inspirations, as the Asian inspired “Music of the Dark Torrent” is followed by the Gaelic folk song “Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail”. “Headless Staves of Poets” is a brooding and sorrowful interlude, followed by “The Hawk of Achill”, a pounding 10 minute episode of pounding drums underneath layers of electronic noise and wandering guitar. “Carved in Aspen”, “Light Cycle” and “In a Dark Tongue” are drawn out, droning tracks, which leaves us with “Centre of the World”, a mirror image of the opener.

In A Dark Tongue isn’t your typical folk album – nor is it your typical atmospheric noise album, or drone album. It’s somewhere in between them all, and it pulls it off very well. After repeated listens, I’m still not sure on where this will sit with me in the long run. It requires more attention than background music would often need… but can run long with it being your primary musical focus. But given the right setting, this could be the soundtrack for an awe-inspiring journey – I just haven’t quite found it yet.



Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.