Harvestman is Steve Von Till's musical bridge. Through his main band, Neurosis, he explores the experimental side of heavy music, while with his solo project, under his own name, he regresses back to the folk origin. Harvestman connects the two, firmly standing on folk ground, but also with an adventurous mindset, wondering into more diverse areas.
Historically, Harvestman presented a continuous output, releasing the first three albums in a five year span, but a seven year wait preceded the newest record, Music For Megaliths. As a result, the production and the recording of the album was spread out over this long period, a fact that actually has aided in the final form of the record. In the past, projects of both Von Till and Scott Kelly (also member of Neurosis) appeared to feature music that could be used as the bare bones for new Neurosis material. Even though that is definitely not a bad thing, it might have lacked a certain fresh perspective on the musicians' viewpoint. The towering “By Wind and Sun,” from the excellent sophomore record of Harvestman, In A Dark Tongue, is an example of this intricacy, but Music For Megaliths avoids this feeling.
It is not to say that elements of the record do not bring memories of Neurosis. The meditative take of the music, the pacing and unfolding of arrangements, coupled with the psychedelic touch for trance inducing purposes, are all present in his main band. But, at the very core of the record rests a much stronger folk approach, introduced from the very first seconds of “The Forest Is Our Temple,” opening up the narrative and setting the tone for what follows.
The center cannot hold on its own, and Von Till expands the folk dimension of Harvestman by carefully placed and precise augmentations of the experience. Minimal settings are introduced, drones begin to arise, moulding the darker and more mystical aspects of this work, in “Sundown” and “Oak Drone,” while repetitive patterns forge the foundations. It is another means for a psychedelic end, enhancing the trippy side of this work through circling progressions, where off-kilter additions can bloom. One of the highlights of the record comes when Kosmische musik makes an appearance, in the mesmerizing “Levitation,” where Jason Roader (drummer of Neurosis) comes in and brings the track to further heights.
What ties it all together is the cohesive narrative that Von Till brings in. The pacing and arrangements, from one song to the next, is thoroughly worked out. Moving from the impressive and open sound of the opening track to the minimal interlude of “Oak Drone” and then to the serene emotions of “Ring of Sentinels,” showcases this unbroken sequence of events that Harvestman follows. Considering also that this is a work that features very few vocal lines, it is extraordinary to see Von Till maintaining this strong storytelling quality throughout.