Saturday 11 May 2013

Steve Von Till - As The Crow Flies (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : 13/5/2013
Label : Neurot Recordings
As The Crow Flies, album track listing:
1. Stained Glass
2. We All Fall
3. Remember
4. Warning of a Storm
5. Twice Born
6. Midheaven
7. Shadows in Stone
For thirteen years now, the Neurot Recordings family has not only survived, but has thrived, especially in recent years, the label’s flourishing roster of forward-thinking artists constantly expanding. Amidst releases from internationally-renowned acts Ufomammut, Isis, Shrinebuilder and of course Neurosis, the clan has also aided in exposing impressive acts from the more underground corners of the scene including Across Tundras, US Christmas, Ides of Gemini, Oxbow, A Storm of Light, Amenra and others. Along the way the members of Neurosis, founders of Neurot, have also spawned an incredible lineage of solo recordings, performances, and joint collaborations amongst themselves and with a close-knit band of other dedicated artists.
Marking the origin of Neurot Recordings was one seminal release which has remained out-of-print for years, but As The Crow Flies -- the debut solo recording from Neurosis’ STEVE VON TILL -- will soar once again this Spring, as the label prepares a reissue of this seminal outing. This nearly forty-five minute composition bore a vast contrast to Neurosis’ massive, plodding riffing and percussion, instead feeling more like a mental excursion into the outer realms of consciousness; an ambient, eclectic, organic and overall honest harvest from the mind of its creator.
Bearing updated artwork and packaging, Neurot will unveil a 2013 reissue of As The Crow Flies on LP, CD and digital delivery in the UK/Europe on May 13th, precisely thirteen years since its initial release
Steve Von Till's solo debut from 2000 is re-issued here and is a timely reminder of the man's talents.  There is no need to discuss Neurosis here, but as a reference point Von Till's solo work echoes the originality and left field nature of his group's excursions.
“Stained Glass” opens the record with moody acoustic, a crooned low toned vocal with violin added for texture, along with some subtle piano here and there. Lyrically, it is dark and reflective stuff as you would expect. One of the joys of records like this is getting into the lyrics a bit more than you often do with full ensemble records- not so many distractions- so I will let you revel in the word-smithery on offer here.“We will Fall” references rather apocalyptic scenarios and the nature of inevitability over a strummed rather than picked acoustic pattern 
“Remember” mixes acoustic guitar in the right channel and one in the centre with an electronic/echo guitar/similar effect in the left channel. Von Till makes the most of this arrangement  with double tracked vocals mixed slightly off centre in each case- lovely production touches that really add to the experience when you are submersing yourself in the record. The album's theme is not so much dark or despairing as reflective and... sombre, perhaps, again making for a different kind of mood to what many metal-goes-acoustic records offer.
“Warning of a Storm” is slow picked and slow sung with a pattern not dissimilar to folk music (particularly of Northern Europe/Scandinavia) in the notes. The track builds with piano, sound effects and cello.The feel is rather wistful and sombre (again) but not depressing per se. At over eight minutes, the track is lengthy but sustained well. Perfect for a long walk over the fields or in the woods, if that is your thing.
“Twice Born” starts with what could be classed as a riff, with melodic strings over the top; more folk touches abound here. Von Till sings very well here with a more energetic vibe to the vocal as he reaches for a slightly higher register than on other tracks.
“Midheaven” is a lot more ominous than its title suggests. The acoustic here is used as almost a drone or funereal march type sound with regular down picking of  a single chord propelling the track forwards. More angst like than previous songs and even comparable to some of the main man's main band's work in some ways.
“Shadows In Stone” clocks in at nearly ten and half minutes and demonstrates a more epic  side to the album. Drums are used here (think in a Tom Waits style) with well placed female vocals appearing too. Strings add texture as Von Till utilises his melodic croon to good effect. The whole track is very well put together and has a rather psychedelic and brooding feel.
As The Crow Flies is, as its title suggests, direct and straightforward in many ways- stripped down instrumentation and vocals being obvious examples. The record is also layered and textured in other ways , though. The themes are not immediately apparent, the atmospheres somewhat haunting, dark, wistful and sombre- sometimes all in the same song! If you had forgotten about this album, dig it out and play it again. If you fancy getting an acoustic album that is unusual, thoughtful and not in any way twee... this is the one. A fantastic record from a real musician.
Words by : Richard Maw
As ever, show your support to the band by checking them out at the various links and buying their merch. This record is available everywhere now. Thanks as always to Lauren @ Rarely Unable for the hook up.