Harvestman - In A Dark Tongue
Neurot Recordings
Ambient Drone
12 songs (69'37")
Release year: 2009
Neurot Recordings
Reviewed by Alex

Only the man himself knows, but it is possible that Harvestman was born because Steve Von Till of Neurosis needed another outlet to release all of his fascination with various filters, textures and distortion Neurosis has become famous for, especially as of late. Sitting in his studio/cabin some place in the remote Northern Idaho, where only wild animals and armed government-hating militia tread, he has been playing with everything from unusual instruments like Appalachian dulcimer and mellotron to all kinds of weird electronics, and it shows.

When I first listened to In A Dark Tongue I thought it would be a devil of a difficult review to write. How was I going to explain this ambient drone, carefully crafted and layered by a one man’s vision? Anyone not in the know what loops and distortions were used in the creation of this sound will never guess where the real instruments went out the window and electronic effects entered. Upon further reflection, however, describing this album became fun, as both the listen and the write-up turned into a game of associations as to what sounds can be recognized and what emotions can be attributed in the whirring concoction which is In A Dark Tongue.

The album rests on a two-ended axis, two long tracks By Wind and Sun and The Hawk of Achill. The heavier, the only one with pronounceable percussion and tubed out sound, By Wind and Sun is also the only track to incorporate coarse shouting shamanistic vocals, to complete the sense of hypnotic trance. Relaxing, reminiscent of Om and Sleep with electric discharges, By Wind and Sun is an opposite to The Hawk of Achill, which keeps the listener on edge for all 10 min of its duration. The Hawk of Achill is a jumpy composition, which jolts and constantly grows the sense of penetrating urgency, spurred on by Al Cisneros’ bass.

Before, in between and after these two repeating lengthy cuts, Harvestman goes through a number of ambient tracks, where anyone can pick their guess as to how they were constructed and what they are supposed to represent. In A Dark Tongue is a classic case of two people looking in a puddle with Moon’s reflection in it. One person grasps a beautiful silvery Moon in it, while the other sees nothing but stale dirty water. Stretching myself in the direction of the first man – an idealist – I could hear a lot of nature inspired sounds in the album. Music of the Dark Torrent takes on a mid-Eastern quality before plunging into oppressive clanking noise. The opener World Ash and the closer Centre of the World are similar bookend images of each other, buzzing like electric powerlines during hot summer day stretching over steamy grassy meadow. Birch-Wood Bower captures a gentle walk in the woods, birds cooing above in the trees. Headless Staves of Poets is string-filled and takes on the sad funeral tone. Not sure if moutharp was used on it, but Karlsteine has the best use of this instrument to portray a rustic melody, all diffuse and warm, inviting to travel, with some flute-like sounds intertwined. This could be in equal part Scandinavian (particularly Finnish as in Haive), Celtic or can be simply driven by solitude irregardless of national identity of the composer. On the other hand, Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail is 100% Celtic, the melody jumping from Gary Moore’s Wild Frontier.

In A Dark Tongue does not need vocals to express itself, only By Wind and Sun chanting the words as if possessed, and the title track putting out distorted creaks which must be representation of that “dark tongue” heard by Steve Von Till and him alone. Just like listening and talking about In A Dark Tongue is not the easiest thing to do, I can clearly imagine people splitting in two opposite camps with this album. For some it will help to relax and daydream, especially when and if hitting at the right moment. The others will be inevitably grated by In A Dark Tongue wishing for these endless loops to end immediately. Think about that puddle and that Moon and pick your side wisely. If you can’t forego the realist here, there is no chance In A Dark Tongue can be enjoyed.

Killing Songs :
Karlsteine, Eibhli Ghail Chiuin Ni Chearbhail, The Hawk of Achill
Alex quoted 72 / 100
0 readers voted
You did not vote yet.
Vote now

There are 1 replies to this review. Last one on Mon Sep 28, 2009 8:44 pm
View and Post comments