Harvestman – Triptych: Part One


Neurosis legend, Steve Von Till, remains a busy man despite the group that made him famous falling into disarray after the shocking departure of Scott Kelly in 2022. The man runs Neurot Recordings and has a discography of solo albums to his name, but the latest project to absorb his creative impulses is Harvestman. With four records under this moniker, he wants to transform it into a serious artistic venture with a three-part series of albums released on specific full moons this year. Triptych: Part One is the first instalment, and it shows him moving away from folk in favour of minimalist electronica and trip hop.

It makes sense for a musician who pioneered the thunderous rage of post-metal to have an artistic outlet that allows for a different form of therapy. The mood here is calm but not blissful enough to be free from the harm of modern society. Soundwaves circle in your head in ‘Psilosynth’ like unformed speech bubbles looking for an articulate phrase. Listen how the synth drones rise from dormant to active under a Massive Attack drum sequence. The syncopated hip hop bassline is straight from DJ Shadow. Is that an e-bow guitar effect adding the ethereal note changes? Every Manchester bar on Oxford Road would play music like this in the mid-2000s for the late-night sophisticates devoted to the music of Tricky and Portishead. You could sip your Smirnoff Ice and lean back into your sofa seat and hope that all of life’s demands might be postponed for another day. But Von Till adds a darker layer of swirling synth drones and digital processing sounds to this hazy eco-system. You’re not in that environment of the 2000s anymore.

It’s inevitable that we end up in a similar windscreen drizzle to Mogwai’s 1999 album. You’ll stop caring about the traffic jam that prevents you from reaching the office when you play ‘Give Your Heart to the Hawk’. Slow-picked guitar chords resonate like dejected SOS signals as the background setting for a poem by Californian legend, Robinson Jeffers. A welcome addition of piano accents makes your inertia even more worthwhile. Sometimes, we need to take a step back from the tempo of life so we can see the simple things that were always there.

Pleasant music is not in the vocabulary of Neurosis, and it filters through here with self-doubt. Take ‘Coma’ as an example. The tranquil backwards loop of a carousel tune hovers in the background with a fading sparkle as a Wendy Carlos wall of synths spiral in the background. ‘How to Purify Mercury’ steps into the world of John Carpenter as seen through the eyes of Björk. ‘Nocturnal Field Song’ takes the obligatory sample of an orchestra of crickets as its starting point before Von Till imposes an eerie sequence of hammer noises on top as if recreating the intro to A Nightmare on Elm Street’s opening scene of Freddy Krueger forging his steel blades in a cavernous workshop.

To see this music as an antidote to the stress of the capitalist rat race is too obvious, although it’s understandable why people would impose that meaning on to the relaxing repetition and detoxing field recordings that soothe your mind. The synth drones in ‘Mare and Foal’ imitate the tuning sound of bagpipes and float around like harmless stars. You could listen to it on repeat through meditation.

Triptych: Part One encourages positive introspection, which is something you’d think impossible from a founding member of Neurosis. Let’s see what part two brings…


Verdict


Release Date: 23/04/2024

Record Label: Neurot Recordings

Standout tracks: Give Your Heart to the Hawk, Coma, Nocturnal Field Song

Suggested Further Listening: Massive Attack – Protection (1994), Mogwai – Come On Die Young (1999), DJ Shadow – The Private Press (2002)