Minimalistic Folk with Emotional Depth
Steve Von Till is best known as a singer and guitarist in the atmospheric, sludge-metal band Neurosis, a band that produces a wall of sound comparable to that of The Melvins. Neurosis is characterized by overpowering waves of distorted guitar and grungy vocals, with small hints of a folk influence. This folk influence can be attributed to Steve Von Till, who trades in his electric for an acoustic guitar to produce exceptional minimalistic folk solo albums. His most recent project, A Life Unto itself, will be released May 12.
A Life Unto Itself is a collection of whispered hymns delivered in the distinctive, coarse baritone of Von Till. His sound incorporates many aspects of traditional folk, psychedelia, and grunge music. The murky influence of Von Till’s alternate project can be felt throughout the album. Assisting Von Till is violist Eyvind Kang, pedal steel guitar player J. Kardong and percussionist Pat Schowe. The album opens with “In Your Wings.” A simplistic acoustic guitar rift fills the space as ambient tones and sparse electric guitar whine behind it. A fiddle and what sounds like a pan flute plays intermittently giving a mystical, folky feel. The texture of Von Till’s voice adds a stern force to the song.
The title track follows a similar template, with sparse acoustic guitar accompanied by the low-rasping vocals of Von Till. An anomaly on the record is “Night of the Moon.” Being led by a reverb filled synthesizer and heavily distorted electric guitar, the track keeps the same slow and minor theme of the album, but with a grungier, psychedelic taste to it. The album continues into “Birch Bark Box” where the brilliance of each string can be heard in the minimalistic riff. The song erupts with emotion as strings and electric guitar moan solemnly with the forceful groan of Von Till’s Voice.
This compilation is composed of the same grit that is Neurosis, stripped down to its fundamental base. The emotion is raw and palpable, laced into each soulfully desolate note. Von Till’s voice makes this album what it is, a poignant work of art that haunts the listener.