Quarterly Review: Steve Von Till, Devil Worhsipper, Dr. Crazy, Linie, The Heavy Minds, Against the Grain, Angel Eyes, Baron, Creedsmen Arise, Deadly Sin (Sloth)

Posted in Reviews on September 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


Truth be told, I’ve been looking forward to this Quarterly Review since the last one ended. Not necessarily since it clears the deck on reviews to be done — it doesn’t — but just because I feel like in any given week there’s so much more that I want to get to than I’m usually able to fit into posting that it’s been good to be able to say, “Well I’ll do another Quarterly Review and include it there.” Accordingly, there are some sizable releases here, today and over the next four days as well.

If you’re unfamiliar with the project, the idea is over the course of this week, I’ll be reviewing 50 different releases — full albums, EPs, demos, comps, splits, vinyl, tape, CD, digital, etc. Most of them have come out since the last Quarterly Review, which went up early in July, but some are still slated for Oct. or Nov. issue dates. Best to mix it up. My hope is that within this barrage of info, art and music, you’re able to find something that stands out to you and that you enjoy deeply. I know I’ll find a few by the time we’re done on Friday.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #1-10:

Steve Von Till, A Life unto Itself

steve von till a life unto itself

A new Steve Von Till solo outing isn’t a minor happening in any circumstances, but A Life unto Itself reads more like a life event than an album. As ever, the Neurosis guitarist/vocalist puts a full emotional breadth into his material, and as it’s his first record in seven years since 2008’s A Grave is a Grim Horse, there’s plenty to say. Sometimes minimal, sometimes arranged, sometimes both, the seven tracks feature little of the psychedelic influence Von Till brought to his Harvestman project, but use lap steel, strings, electrics, acoustics, keys and of course his meditative, gravelly voice to convey a broad spectrum nonetheless, and cuts like “Chasing Ghosts,” “In Your Wings” and the centerpiece “Night of the Moon” (which actually does veer into the ethereal, in its way) are all the more memorable for it. The richness of “A Language of Blood” and the spaciousness of the drone-meets-sea-shanty closer “Known but Not Named” only underscore how far Von Till is able to range, and how satisfying the results can be when he does.

Steve Von Till on Thee Facebooks

Steve Von Till at Neurot Recordings

Devil Worhsipper, Devil Worhsipper

devil worshipper devil worshipper

Bizarro vibes pervade Devil Worshipper’s debut LP, Devil Worshipper, what may or may not be a one-man project from Jeff Kahn (ex-Hideous Corpse, Skeleton of God; spelled here as Jevf Kon), mixed by Tad Doyle and released on Holy Mountain. Based in Seattle (that we do know), the project wields molten tones and slow groove to classic underground metal, heavy psych and bleary moods to hit into oddly cinematic moodiness on “Ash Brume” and even nod at Celtic Frost from a long ways away on closer “Lurker (Death).” Most of the drums are programmed, save for “New Spirit World Order,” “Ash Brume” and “Lurker,” but either way, they only add to the weirdness of the chanting layered vocals of “New Spirit World Order,” and just when it seems like eight-minute second track “Chemrails” will have been as far out as Devil Worshipper gets, side B’s “Desert Grave” takes hold for a five-minute dirge that turns out to be one of the record’s most satisfying rolls, reminiscent of something Rob Crow might’ve done with Goblin Cock on downers. Unexpected and living well in its own space, the album manages to be anchored by its lead guitar work without seeming anchored at all.

Devil Worshpper on Thee Facebooks

Devil Worshipper at Holy Mountain

Dr. Crazy, 1,000 Guitars

dr crazy 1000 guitars

So, how many guitars on London trio Dr. Crazy’s 13-minute/four-song EP, 1,000 Guitars? Two, I think. The side-project of Groan vocalist Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen and Chris West, formerly the drummer of Trippy Wicked and Stubb who here plays guitar and bass while Groan’s former guitarist Mike Pilat handles drums, make a bid for the possibility of playing live in bringing in Pilat to fill the role formerly occupied remotely by Tony Reed of Mos Generator on their 2014 debut EP, Demon Lady. Whether that happens will remain to be seen, but they affirm their ‘80s glam leanings on “Bikini Woman” and keep the message simple on opener “Hands off My Rock and Roll” while “1,000 Guitars” makes the most of guest lead work from Stubb’s Jack Dickinson – he’s the second guitar, alongside West – and yet another infectious Mazzereth-led hook, and well, “Mistress of Business” starts out by asking the titular lady to pull down her pants, so, you know, genius-level satire ensues.

Dr. Crazy on Thee Facebooks

Dr. Crazy on Bandcamp

Linie, What We Make Our Demons Do

linie what we make our demons do

An aggressive core lies beneath the progressivism of German five-piece Linie (actually written as ?inie) on their debut full-length, What We Make Our Demons Do, but the material holds a sense of atmosphere as well. Vocalist/guitarist Jörn is very much at the fore of post-intro opener “Blood on Your Arms,” but as the crux of the album plays out on the chug-happy “Lake of Fire” and “No Ideal,” Linie showcase a wider breadth and bring together elements of post-hardcore à la Fugazi, darker heavy rock and purposefully brooding metal. Comprised of Jörn, guitarist/vocalist Alex, bassist/vocalist Ralph, drummer/vocalist Alex and keyboardist Iggi, the band impress on their first offering with not only how assured they seem of their aesthetic, but the expansive manner in which they present it. Their songwriting is varied in approach but unified in mood and while I don’t know what has them so pissed off on a cut like “Inability,” there’s no question whether they’re putting that anger to good use.

Linie on Thee Facebooks

Linie on Bandcamp

The Heavy Minds, Treasure Coast

the heavy minds treasure coast

Austrian trio The Heavy Minds make their full-length debut on Stone Free with Treasure Coast, a seven-cut LP that fuzzes up ‘70s swing without going the full-Graveyard in retro vibe. “You’ve Seen it Coming” seems to nod at Radio Moscow, but a more overarching vibe seems to share ideology with Baltimore three-piece The Flying Eyes, the classic rock sensibilities given natural presentation through a nonetheless modern feel in the tracks. The bass tone of Tobias (who also plays guitar at points) alone makes Treasure Coast worth hunting down, but doesn’t prove to be the limit of what the young outfit have to offer, drummer Christoph swinging fluidly throughout “Diamonds of Love” in a manner that foreshadows the emergent roll of “Seven Remains.” That song is part of a closing duo with “Fire in My Veins,” which boasts a satisfying bluesy howl from guitarist Lukas, rounding out Treasure Coast with an organic openness that suits the band well.

The Heavy Minds on Thee Facebooks

Stone Free

Against the Grain, Road Warriors

against the grain road warriors

Momentum is key when it comes to Road Warriors, the new full-length from Detroit four-piece Against the Grain. They amass plenty of it as they thrust into the 12-track/38-minute rager of an outing, but there are changes to be had in tempo if not necessarily intent. Comprised of bassist/vocalist Chris Nowak, guitarist/vocalist Kyle Davis, guitarist Nick Bellomo and drummer Rob Nowak, the band actually seems more comfortable on fifth-gear cuts like “’Til We Die,” “What Happened,” the first half of “Afraid of Nothing” or the furious “Run for Your Life” than they do in the middle-ground of “Guillotine” and “Night Time,” but slowing down on “Sirens” and “Eyes” allows them to flex a more melodic muscle, and that winds up enriching the album in subtle and interesting ways. If you want a clue as to the perspective from which they’re working, they start with “Here to Stay” and end with “Nothing Left to Lose.” Everything between feels suitably driven by that mission statement.

Against the Grain on Thee Facebooks

Against the Grain on Bandcamp

Angel Eyes, Things Have Learnt to Walk that Ought to Crawl


With the ‘t’ and the ‘ought’ in its title, Angel Eyes’ posthumous third full-length, Things Have Learnt to Walk that Ought to Crawl, brims with oddly rural threat. Like the things are people. The Chicago outfit unfold two gargantuan cascades of atmosludge on “Part I” (15:54) and “Part II” (19:18), pushing their final recording to toward and beyond recommended minimums and maximums as regards intensity. They called it quits in 2011, so to have the record surface four years later and be as blindsidingly cohesive as it is actually makes it kind of a bummer, since it won’t have a follow-up, but the work Angel Eyes are doing across these two tracks – “Part I” getting fully blown-out before shifting into the quiet opening of “Part II” – justifies the time it’s taken for it to be released. They were signed to The Mylene Sheath, but Things is an independent, digital-only outing for the time being, though its structure and cover feel ripe for vinyl. Who knows what the future might bring.

Angel Eyes on Thee Facebooks

Angel Eyes on Bandcamp

Baron, Torpor

baron torpor

Textured, hypnotic and downright gorgeous in its psychedelic melancholy, Baron’s Torpor is a record that a select few will treasure deeply and fail to understand the problem as to why the rest of the planet isn’t just as hooked. A thoroughly British eight-track full-length – their second, I believe, but first for SvartTorpor creates and captures spaces simultaneously on organ-infused pieces like “Mark Maker,” executing complex transitions fluidly and feeding into an overarching ambience that, by the time they get around to the eight-minute “Stry,” is genuinely affecting in mood and beautifully engrossing. The Brighton/Nottingham four-piece fuzz out a bit on “Deeper Align,” but the truth is that Torpor has much more to offer than a single genre encapsulates and those that miss it do so to their own detriment. I mean that. Its patience, its poise and its scope make Torpor an utter joy of progressive flourish and atmosphere with a feel that is entirely its own. I could go on.

Baron on Thee Facebooks

Baron at Svart Records

Creedsmen Arise, Temple

creedsmen arise temple

So get this. For their first EP, Swedish trio Creedsmen Arise – guitarist Emil, drummer Simon and bassist Gustaf (since replaced by Jonte) – have taken it upon themselves to pen a sequel to Sleep’s Dopesmoker that, “tells the story about what happened centuries after the Dopesmoker Caravan and it’s [sic] Weedians reached their destination.” Admirably ballsy terrain for the three-piece to tread their first time out. It’s like, “Oh hey, here’s my first novel – it’s Moby Dick from the whale’s perspective.” The three tracks of the Temple EP are fittingly schooled in Iommic studies, but the band almost undercuts itself because they don’t just sound like Sleep. They have their own style. Yeah, it’s riffy stoner metal, but it’s not like they’re doing an Al Cisneros impression on vocals, so while the concept is derived directly, the sound doesn’t necessarily completely follow suit. Between the 10-minute opening title- and longest-track (immediate points), “Herbal Burial” and “Circle of Clergymen,” Creedsmen Arise make perhaps a more individualized statement than they intended, but it’s one that bodes well.

Creedsmen Arise on Thee Facebooks

Creedsmen Arise on Bandcamp

Deadly Sin (Sloth), Demo Discography

deadly sin (sloth) demo discography

Nola’s cool and all, but when it comes to the nastiest, most misanthropic, fucked-up sludge, choosy moms choose Ohio, and Deadly Sin (Sloth) are a potent example of why. Their Demo Discography tape revels in its disconcerting extremity and seems to grind regardless of whether the Xenia, OH, trio are actually playing fast. Comprised of Jay Snyder, Wilhelm Princeton and Kyle Hughes, Deadly Sin (Sloth) cake themselves in mud that will be familiar to anyone who’s witnessed Fistula on a bender or Sloth at their most pill-popping, but do so with sub-lo-fi threat on the tape and are so clearly intentional in their effort to put the listener off that one could hardly call their demos anything but a victory. Will not be for everyone, but of course that’s the idea. This kind of viciousness is a litmus test that would do justice to any basement show, maddening in its nod and mean well beyond the point of reason.

Deadly Sin (Sloth) on Thee Facebooks

Deadly Sin (Sloth) on Bandcamp

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Steve Von Till Announces Solo European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 4th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Steve Von Till, best known as guitarist/vocalist in Neurosis, has announced a European run that will start June 29 in support of his new album, A Life unto Itself (review forthcoming), which is out now on Neurot Recordings. It is the Idaho-based Von Till‘s fourth solo full-length, and like 2008’s A Grave is a Grim HorseA Life unto Itself explores a variety of textures and arrangements while keeping a central, if-not-acoustic-at-least-intimate spirit at its core, though it’s worth noting that the seven years between records has resulted in prevalent growth as well, Von Till becoming an even more patient, exploratory songwriter while reveling in tradition as much as experimentation.

Tour dates and album info follow, fresh off the PR wire:

steve von till (Photo by Niela Von Till)

STEVE VON TILL Announces European Live Dates In Support Of His New Solo Album, A Life Unto Itself, Out Now On Neurot Recordings

Neurosis guitarist/vocalist and Neurot Recordings founder, STEVE VON TILL, reveals a string of European live dates in support of his latest solo album, the immense and celestial, A Life Unto Itself. From June 29th through July 5th, SVT will trek through the UK, Germany and France.

6/29/2015 St Pancras Old Church – London, UK
7/01/2015 Jägerklause – Berlin, DE
7/02/2015 UT Connewitz – Leipzig, DE
7/03/2015 Jubez – Karlsruhe, DE
7/04/2015 La Peniche – Lille, FR
7/05/2015 Espace B – Paris, FR

A Life Unto Itself ventures into compelling uncharted territory for its maker. STEVE VON TILL’s weathered, distinctive voice and sparse acoustic guitar provides a foundation, but a much wider variety of sonic textures are presented here. Bold and ambitious arrangements weave vintage synth, sublime strings, percussion, and electric guitars throughout these unique and expansive songs, as VON TILL’s raspy whisper dives deeply inward, and speaks genuinely of visions, memories, and self-reflection in a way that feels both seasoned and exposed.

The majority of A Life Unto Itself was captured at Avast! Recording Co. in Seattle under the direction of producer Randall Dunn (Earth, Sunn O))), Wolves In The Throne Room, Marissa Nadler and Rose Windows), with additional recordings handled at STEVE VON TILL’s own The Crow’s Nest, and the final product was mastered by Jason Ward at Chicago Mastering Service. With guest viola contributions from Eyvind Kang, pedal steel from J. Kardong, and percussion courtesy of Pat Schowe, the album is enshrouded in artwork bearing the recognizable style of Aaron Turner (Sumac, Isis, Old Man Gloom, Hydra Head). All of these factors culminate into a twelve-passage voyage with over forty-five minutes of stirring textures which drill their way immediately to the core of your bones, gnaw your heart’s defense mechanisms to their foundations, and invoke a wellspring of emotions.

A Life Unto Itself LP is out now via Neurot Recordings. Packages for the digital download, CD, and 12″ LP on both black and red vinyl, including t-shirt bundles, are AVAILABLE HERE.


Steve Von Till, “A Life unto Itself”

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audiObelisk Transmission 048

Posted in Podcasts on May 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download


Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

The second hour starts a little early this time around, and what I mean by that is when you’re like five minutes into hour two and trying to figure out on the tracklisting below what improv-sounding brilliant cut you’re hearing, pay careful attention to when hour one ended. Just 11 seconds from the start of the second half of the podcast. So yeah, that 18-minute wonder gets filed under hour one instead, but it comes with a wink and a nod. I just couldn’t bring myself to file something under hour two without a one at the front of the time stamp, which shows you how sad and compulsive I am because I’ve only been time-stamping these podcasts for two months now. What a dork.

It’s good stuff this. Always is, I suppose, but starting out with Goatsnake into The Machine and then on from there, it builds a flow that makes some sense one into the next in a way that, listening back to it after I put it together, was especially satisfying. Hopefully you agree as you make your way though.

As always, hope you enjoy:

First Hour:
0:00:00 Goatsnake, “Grandpa Jones” from Black Age Blues
0:04:36 The Machine, “Coda Sun” from Offblast!
0:09:55 Galley Beggar, “Pay My Body Home” from Silence and Tears
0:18:51 Steve Von Till, “Night of the Moon” from A Life Unto Itself
0:25:48 Venomous Maximus, “Through the Black” from Firewalker
0:29:42 Black Pyramid, “Open the Gates” from Dead Star 7”
0:34:59 Ape Skull, “A is for Ape” from Fly Camel Fly
0:39:54 Sunder, “Deadly Flower” from Demo
0:43:53 Eternal Fuzz, “Sea Change” from Nostalgia
0:47:37 Geezer, “Long Dull Knife” from Long Dull Knife
0:53:31 Fogg, “Joy of Home” from High Testament
0:59:49 Shiggajon, “Sela” from Sela

Second Hour:
1:18:07 Blown Out, “Thousand Years in the Sunshine” from Planetary Engineering
1:34:01 Les Lekin, “Loom” from All Black Rainbow Moon
1:47:14 Undersmile, “Knucklesucker” from Anhedonia

Total running time: 1:59:00


Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 048


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Steve Von Till Announces A Life unto Itself Album Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Been a quick seven years since Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till released his last solo album, A Grave is a Grim Horse. Or maybe it’s been a long seven years. I don’t know. It’s been seven friggin’ years, either way, which is long enough. In May, Von Till will issue the Randall Dunn-recorded A Life unto Itself on Neurot as his fourth solo outing. There hasn’t been any audio yet, but I’m interested to hear how the thread from A Grave is a Grim Horse plays out. The last Von Till record had more of an arranged sense, less of a guy-plus-guitar folkishness than the preceding 2002 long-player, If I Should Fall to the Field. Hard to believe that album is 13 years old now. Wow.

While I go attempt to process those numbers, dig into the PR wire info below on A Life unto Itself:

steve von till (Photo by Niela Von Till)

Steve Von Till reveals details of an astonishing new solo album, A Life Unto Itself, upcoming on Neurot Recordings in May

The title doesn’t quite say it all, but it says some of it: A Life Unto Itself is as much the name of Steve Von Till’s fourth solo album as it is the perfect description for the 25-plus years he’s spent forging, with his brothers, the incomparable musical force that is Neurosis—not to mention the numerous sonic tapestries he’s woven with Tribes Of Neurot and under his alter ego Harvestman. You can hear that rich musical history, and all the life experience that goes with it, on his new solo album A Life Unto Itself – and this album goes deeper still.

Where Steve Von Till’s previous solo recordings took on a more traditional approach with a respectful nod toward American and European folk music, A Life Unto Itself expands and ventures into compelling uncharted territory for its maker. Steve Von Till’s weathered, distinctive voice and sparse acoustic guitar provides a foundation, but a much wider variety of sonic textures are presented here. Bold and ambitious arrangements weave vintage synth, sublime strings, percussion, and electric guitars in and out of these unique and expansive songs as Steve Von Till’s raspy whisper dives deeply inward and speaks genuinely of visions, memories, and self-reflection in a way that feels both seasoned and exposed.

A Life Unto Itself is a powerful and evocative collection of beautiful Celtic balladry, haunting folk songs, dark psychedelia and expansive Americana, transporting one to the very heart and soul of its creator. If you allow yourself to fully submit to it, abandoning all preconceptions, the rewards can be magnificent.


Steve Von Till, “Looking for Dry Land” from A Grave is a Grim Horse (2008)

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Steve Von Till: New Solo Album Recorded, Mixed and Mastered

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Last night on Thee Facebooks, producer Randall Dunn (Master Musicians of Bukkake) confirmed that he’d heard the mastered version of a new solo album by Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till. No release date has been set for the yet-untitled offering, and things like artwork and Neurot Recordings‘ scheduling will no doubt factor into when it’s made public, but even that a new outing has been recorded with Dunn at the helm is news enough for me, particularly considering Neurosis are also slated to begin writing a new album in February according to guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly.

Whenever it arrives, the next Von Till full-length will be his first since 2008’s A Grave is a Grim Horse, which was his third and presented something of a shift from the folk of his first two, 2000’s As the Crow Flies and 2002’s If I Should Fall to the Field, to a fuller sound, which was further developed on 2009’s In a Dark Tongue (review here), the second LP from Von Till‘s psychedelic, exploratory rock project Harvestman. Seven years between solo albums seems like a long time, but between HarvestmanNeurosis‘ 2012 LP Honor Found in Decay (review here), that band’s increasingly busy live schedule — they just did three New Year’s shows in San Francisco to kick off what promises to be a busier 2015, even apart from the writing sessions — his participation in the first Songs of Townes Van Zandt tribute with Wino and Kelly, and Neurot‘s reissue of As the Crow Flies last year, marking its first release on vinyl, there hasn’t been any deficit of output.

More to come as I hear it, but until then, here’s Von Till to stare you down and the post from Dunn:

steve von till

Listening to the master of the new Steve Von Till solo record I produced and recorded. It sounds amazing! cannot wait for you all to hear this very psyched out and heavy. Thanks to J.b. Kardong , Eyvind Kang and Pat Schowe for your great contributions. Thanks to Steve Von Till for asking me to do it!


Steve Von Till, “A Grave is a Grim Horse”

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Neurosis Interview with Steve Von Till: “We’re a Chaos Process”

Posted in Features on October 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Talking to Neurosis is always an educational experience. This time, in conversation with guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till, I learned that the processes by which the band makes records — specifically, the process that resulted in their latest album, Honor Found in Decay (review here) — isn’t as clean as one might think. Von Till calls it a “chaos process,” and that’s as apt a descriptor as I can come up with going by his recounting of how it all works. Where my impulse in listening to songs like “We all Rage in Gold” and “Bleeding the Pigs” is to hear either Von Till or fellow guitarist/vocalist Scott Kelly (recent interview here) at the fore and assume that whoever’s taking the lead at the moment wrote that song or that part, that’s not necessarily the case. Von Till stresses the group, the collective, and in the end, the search for or the need to put a structural idea to it says more about the listener than the band, who apparently are compelled to no such thing.

Still, there are practical considerations. A Neurosis album doesn’t just happen to take shape out of some foggy ether — if it did, Honor Found in Decay probably would’ve followed much sooner on the heels of 2007’s Given to the Rising. It’s a gritty, emotional process and gritty, emotional music, but it takes a tremendous amount of back and forth to put together, and with members spread as far out as Idaho, Oregon and California’s Bay Area, it’s not like they can all get together in a rehearsal space three times a week and collaborate. Small groups meet, ideas are emailed back and forth, but when it comes to actually being in the same room at the same time, Von Till puts it bluntly: “Couple times a year.”

In that context, Honor Found in Decay is all the more striking. Of course, the full band — Von Till, Kelly, bassist Dave Edwardson, drummer Jason Roeder and keyboardist/sampler Noah Landis — came together to finalize the album’s seven component tracks before entering the studio with Steve Albini at the helm as engineer for the fifth time. But even so, as much as some acts agonize and argue over parts and what should go where and how many times, Neurosis in their 27th year as a band make the most of their limited hours and days together, resulting in material that’s not only characteristic of what they do or what their style is, but advances their aesthetic further, smoothing out the transitions and contrasts between heavy riffing and sparse ambience, allowing room for melodies to flourish in deconstructed atmospheres and a pervasive sense of darkness.

Von Till discusses it as well, but in that particularly, Landis is more integral to Honor Found in Decay than he’s ever been to a Neurosis album. Both Given to the Rising and its predecessor, 2004’s The Eye of Every Storm gave hints of the depths of Landis‘ contributions, but with the new record, his manipulations are every bit as essential as the guitars, bass or drums, and it’s important to understand that these things aren’t plotted in the sense of Kelly or Von Till stepping back and saying, “Alright, now we’re gonna do this with the sampler.” It’s what comes out of that chaos process, that collaboration with the whole band, it’s no different for Landis than it is for anyone else in Neurosis.

In the interview that follows, Von Till talks about putting the album together, from the songwriting to the concepts behind the Josh Graham cover art, the continued relationship with Albini, the contrast between the tension of pummeling churn and open musical spaces, the prospects for live shows in the coming months to support the record, his Harvestman and solo projects, the growth of the band’s label, Neurot Recordings, and much more.

The complete 4,400-word Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

Read more »

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Wino Wednesday: Exclusive Track Premiere of “Nothing” from Townes Van Zandt Tribute 3-Way Split with Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till

Posted in audiObelisk on May 30th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Happy Wino Wednesday
Come June 12, the good souls at Neurot Recordings will release a three-way split CD tribute to Townes Van Zandt that features none other than Scott “Wino” Weinrich alongside Neurosis vocalist/guitarists Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till. The Nashville singer-songwriter’s melancholic minimalism has had an impact on all three players’ solo outings, perhaps least of all Wino‘s Adrift, though given that he added a version of “Highway Kind” from Van Zandt‘s 1972 album High, Low and in Between, one imagines that will change when he does his next acoustic album. When Wino toured with Scott Kelly in early 2011 in support of Adrift, the two covered Van Zandt both individually and together (Kelly does a version of “Tecumseh Valley” here, which he played on that tour as well), and I seem to recall Wino crediting Kelly with having introduced him to Van Zandt‘s work in the first place.

So the ties are there both between Wino and the material and Wino and these players. Von Till‘s own excellent solo acoustic work derives heavily from Van Zandt‘s and he covered “Spider” on his 2008 offering, A Grave is a Grim Horse, so couple that with Kelly being a bandmate of Wino‘s in Shrinebuilder, and all three of them having performed Van Zandt material in the past, and a release like Songs of Townes Van Zandt seems almost inevitable, something like the culmination — or at very least the solidifying — on an appreciation that has played out for several years already. The song “Nothing” appeared as “Nothin'” on 1971’s Delta Momma Blues and subsequently on the posthumously-released Absolutely Nothing, and has a haunting melody as delivered by Wino that more than earns the ‘g’ on the end of the word.

I’m honored today to premiere “Nothing” from Songs of Townes Van Zandt as performed by Wino. You’ll find it on the player below, followed by some context from Neurot about the release. Please enjoy and have a happy Wino Wednesday:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Townes Van Zandt never reached significant fame during his lifetime. Although highly respected by his peers and other songwriters, the mood and atmosphere of his music, coupled with his sometimes dark and sarcastic nature, was not suitable for the commercial country-industry of Nashville.

Van Zandt’s songs did, however, reach popularity in his day through artists such as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Emmylou Harris. Within his circle of outsider singer-songwriters, he was adored, though ultimately depression and alcoholism overshadowed his life. Van Zandt’s friend, singer Steve Earle, has been quoted as saying, “Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.”

Van Zandt passed away in 1997, and the fact that artists as diverse as Robert Plant, Mudhoney, Norah Jones, Lyle Lovett and Dylan himself have kept his songs alive and vital is a testament to the influence and impact of his music.

So now do Steve Von Till, Scott Kelly and Wino stand and sing his tribute, each focusing on the essence of Van Zandt’s music and lyrics in his own personal way. The result is a great homage, whose intensity lies in fragility and elementary human truths. Van Zandt’s brokenhearted love songs and gloom-ridden tales are most deserving of this tribute and praise.

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U.S. Christmas, Minsk and Harvestman Meet the Master of the Universe

Posted in Reviews on May 14th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you’re wondering what might motivate three of thinky-thinky metal’s most luminous outfits – Steve Von Till’s Harvestman, Minsk and U.S. Christmas – to come together and put out a three-way split of 11 Hawkwind covers, the answer seems blindingly obvious: They all really like Hawkwind. Duh.

And with good reason, since that British band, who last year celebrated their 40th anniversary, are more or less the foundation on which multiple generations of space rock have been built and have had an unprecedented, unequaled influence on sonic psychedelia. Hell, I can’t even get through a space rock review without mentioning Hawkwind at least once. Why would Harvestman, Minsk and U.S. Christmas want to tribute to Hawkwind? Maybe the more appropriate question is “What took so long?”

What makes Neurot’s Hawkwind Triad unique, at least in a “Hey, we did something different” kind of way, is that the 11 tracks – divided four, four and three to U.S. Christmas, Harvestman and Minsk, respectively – aren’t divided by band. The Hawkwind Triad opens with U.S. Christmas, then follows with Harvestman, then Minsk, and so on, with no band ever having two tracks in a row (and Minsk bowing out after track seven) until the end of the album. The idea is that it should flow like a record instead of a three-way split, and it works in some spots better than others. But since they’re presenting the tracks in such a way as to mesh the three groups, I thought it might be fun to break them back up for a band-by-band review (the “prick” impulse strikes again). Observe:

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