Get ready. Get set. Get stoned.
This latest offering from Harvestman, the alter ego of Neurosis alumni Steve Von Till is a trippy, psychedelic offering. Soulful and searing Music For Megaliths is crushingly dense but only in the most atmospheric of ways. This is the same Steve Von Till of Neurosis but you’d be a fool to anticipate that this sound anything like his main band. No, on Music For Megaliths Von Till does tread familiar ground but he also allows himself plenty of chances for experimentation.
“Oakdrone” is easily a standout song, a track I come back to time and again. It was the first song on the album that I decided I needed to go back and listen to before I’d even made it through one pass of Music For Megaliths. There is something comforting about the swirling keys and droning guitars that threatens to lull the listener to sleep at every moment. It’s not boring though, but rather falls under the “soothing” header. It creeps and lurches along to its final resting place.
I can’t help but think of the soundtrack to the old Johnny Depp film Deadman during the opening track “The Forest is Our Temple”. There is a distinctly “western” sound to this song and the guitars bite the way Neil Young’s famous crunch always has. They offer enough tonal variety and personality to make this long instrumental track epic in scope and execution. It’s remarkable though how hints of Neurosis can be detected among the washes of twangy guitar chords.
Immediately inviting and full of warmth, my favourite track may very well be “Ring of Sentinels”, an uplifting crossover into krautrock territory. Yep, there is sampling here and strange sounds all suspended and moving together in a fuzzy warm place. It’s easy to get lost in the huge bass tones and electronic drumming. Von Till’s guitar is sweetly distorted and creeps out from underneath providing some contextual grounding for the effort. It’s a really stunning song sure to leave imitators in its wake.
This latest Harvestman recording is delicate and vulnerable in a way that stays true to what fans of Von Till’s expect. With only seven tracks to showcase his ethereal, possibly more spiritual side, Steve Von Till makes the most of the minimalist approach that this record adheres to. Absent are angry vocals or blaring guitars and the war-like rhythm section one might expect to accompany Von Till’s songwriting is absent all together. Von Till’s recognizable vocals do creep up once on this Harvestman effort, notable on the track “Whitehorse”. However, they are never the focus of the compositions.
I really enjoy the expansive instrumental nature that makes up the bulk of this album. This is another solid solo effort by one of modern heavy music’s most recognizable personas. Trading in the bombast of Neurosis for a technique more focused on nuance and subtleties Steve Von TIll delivers a stunning record that creates landscapes of warm rolling fields crafted by an assortment of instrumentation and sounds that are not alien to Neurosis but utilized in a completely different manner in this context.