Ancient Harvest

Harvestman is Steve Von Till from Neurosis, the American avant-rock band who I sense have been quite successful peddling their particular brand of doom-rock mixed with ambient elements, ever since their original incarnation as a hardcore punk band in 1985. Von Till’s a prolific fellow and indeed his Tribes Of Neurot split album from 1998 (Static Migration, with Walking Time Bombs, catno RR 6972-2) was one of the first records we reviewed in these pages. His Music For Megaliths (NEUROT RECORDINGS NR 105) is about the fifth record he’s made as Harvestman for this label, starting with Lashing The Rye in 2005 – which, if cover art is anything to go by, is his Oakland CA take on the John Barleycorn myth. He continues his mystical preoccupations with ancient history on Music For Megaliths, taking ancient stone monuments as his theme, and enlisting Thomas Hooper to decorate the cover with symbolic daubs executed in a “cave painting” style.

Musically, Von Till (who plays and overdubs all the instruments here) is attempting to brew a dark fusion of pagan folk, wild psychedelia and ambient drone, and is not afraid to flirt with “kosmische” vibes in places. There’s no doubting the intensity of his interest in the romance of these stones, and although he doesn’t personally articulate the matter by way of sleeve notes, I wouldn’t be surprised if he can out-talk Julian Cope on the subject any day of the week. Opening track is titled ‘The Forest Is Our Temple’, indicating that it’s the sacredness of these religious sites that is paramount, and presumably the music is intended to invoke a trance state in the mind of the listener. Mostly instrumental sonorous drone music is what results from this, apart from ‘White Horse’ which has portentous half-spoken vocals intoned in a highly solemn manner, as if to instil fear and respect in a crowd of infidels. Harvestman also makes much use of primitive musical repetitions, pulses and patterns in service of his ideas, but shies away from actually composing finished tunes, in favour of creating and sustaining a mood or atmosphere. Quite good, but somehow lacking in depth or conviction; I’m not feeling the religious awe or the thrill of exciting fear that I presume is intended. From 16th May 2017.