This is the first record from Neurosis-lord Steve Von Till’s new project/moniker Harvestman. Where we have seen the folk leanings of the man in both Neurosis, specifically through the love of the Bagpipes (also present here), and on his two solo albums, Harvestman takes this further, and in a different direction.
Lashing The Rye contains traditional folk songs but this is not a traditional folk record by any means, its more ‘space-folk’, through its combination of acoustic folk and the atmospheres and desolation of both space-rock and minimalism. Most tracks are wandering instrumental landscapes but not in the form that we are familiar with Von Till creating as part of Tribes of Neurot, instead Harvestman offers more defined instrumentation and often distinctly guitar-led pieces, with reverberating lead over droning synths and manipulated sounds.
“Scarborough Fair” takes inspiration from the John Renbourne version of the traditional and stretches and disperses it out into a more expansive and exploratory journey
The album seems to somehow seamlessly blend together a nostalgic pastoral feel, conjuring images of a life of arable work and rest in the most pleasant, natural surroundings, along with a very other-wordly and almost eerie feel and sense of the mass expanse of space outside our planet’s boundaries and people’s experience. “Scarborough Fair” takes inspiration from the John Renbourne version of the traditional and stretches and disperses it out into a more expansive and exploratory journey, as can also be seen with other tracks like the noisy “Jack Orion” (another traditional but this time inspired by a Bert Jansch rendition). Half of the album is original material written by Von Till such as the less ambient and moodier “Over Nine Waves” and opening landscape “Amongst the Heather”. The album also contains vocals, sometimes more experimentally with repeated and phasing patterns as in “Melleadh” or more straightforwardly in “Surround Me” where Erica Little’s voice powerfully haunts the piece and also draws out some subtly beautiful accompaniment/response work from both guitar and violin. Several bagpipe pieces, such as the “The Thunderer”, also appear on Lashing The Rye reinterpreted by other instruments but the album suitably ends with a proud (actual) bagpipe solo piece “Green Hills of Tyrol/The Battle’s O’er”, played by John Goff.
Von Til has succeeded in creating some thoughtful pieces and overall Lashing The Rye makes for a very interesting and relaxing listen, despite what are sometimes not the most peaceful of sounds. He has proved himself once again to be both master experimentor and songsmith and crafted a very worthy album. It will be interesting to see how Von Till’s new project will progress.