Last year I got the privilege to review Neurosis lynch pin Steve Von Till’s latest solo effort, the beautiful and mesmerizing No Wilderness Deep Enough, a project born from the tender, wistful and introspective alter ego of a man who has been at the forefront of some of the most ferocious post-metal that ever been committed to record.
Earlier this year whilst reviewing the long awaited Yawning Son’s follow up to their first album; a collection of songs born of the collaboration between two stunning instrumental bands, Sky Island featured some beautiful guest vocal spots. In the review, I talked about how the last song was an instrumental sign off that allowed the listeners to pick the path of their own existential journey and destination that the album was taking them towards.
Ironically, when Von Till put together his last solo album it was originally conceived as an ambient existential piece, driven largely by instrumental compositions that seem to shift and change with mood, like the gradual coming of the seasons. It was only when the project was drawing to a close that Von Till was challenged to add vocals to the musical expanse he’d constructed. As such, the lyrical content of No Wilderness… and transition to ‘songs’ had roots in his Harvestman projects and poetic writings which gave a new life and direction to the music that was not the original embodiment of the vision he’d sculpted.
Now in 2021 we have the chance to revisit his creation and hear A Deep Voiceless Wilderness as it was intended, a release shorn of the lyrics that were added. On the album, the man himself says in his press release, ‘This is how I originally heard this piece of music, without the voice as anchor or earthbound narrative, these pieces have a broader wingspan. They become something else entirely and unfold in a more expansive way’.
Much like the sign off I previously talked about, the ability to hear the music without the imposed narrative allows the listener to their own bring their own interpretations to the six offerings and surrender to the experience, letting the music wash over and take them where only the limit is the imagination.
Without the smoky gravel drawl of the Neurosis singer’s instantly recognisable voice, the latest album is much more of a soundtrack rather than an album. In the original review I referenced Nine Inch Nails Ghost albums as an example of this stripped down mind set, and this project remains very much in that vein. On the surface, there is little intrusion into the consciousness without devoting focus to the experience, and no dramatic shift or jarring challenge to your comfort zone.
The music is light and airy, simple yet deep and stirring with each rise and fall of the sweeping strings…
What is left is a beautiful, immersive experience, crafted through many instruments not remotely associated with the genre of post-metal, or whatever pigeonhole you put Neurosis, or even Von Till himself into. This is an album that lends itself more to feeling, rather than critique and becomes a series of musical movements instead of a true instrumental album of songs. There is little conscious break in theme or sound during the six pieces to denote a change in mood or motive, which makes the album hang together with a subtle beauty and has more in common with a classical presentation in preference to the controlled fury of his day job.
Even without the guiding voice, this is an album that can be described as ‘spiritual’. A cursory knowledge of the themes covered by all the work Von Till has been involved in shows a common theme of searching for meaning, understanding and a connection to the core of existence. Notably for the first time, the man has recorded without a guitar in his hand, this seeks to combine the soulfulness of folk, the expansive beauty of neo-classical, the immersiveness of ambient electronics and subtle flavours of French Horn.
It’s hard to draw direct comparisons to the music itself, Brian Eno, the aforementioned Nine Inch Nails project, Jóhann Jóhannsson can all be raised, but this is a creation all unto itself that combines synth, plaintive piano, cellos and a weeping mellotron that ebbs and flow, often as delicate as a gentle breeze on a summer’s day.
The music is light and airy, simple yet deep and stirring with each rise and fall of the sweeping strings giving A Deep Voiceless Wilderness a feel like a soaring bird viewing a lofty mountain range; yet juxtaposes with the isolated piano notes. Other moments the synthesizers or ambient movements are like watching the light sparkle off a tiny grain of sand in the focus of complete stillness. In many ways, it couldn’t feel any more different from the blood and guts of Through Silver In Blood, yet somehow they share a common thread, like an extreme Ying and Yang that has inspired concepts like The Incredible Hulk and the Jungian Dichotomy of Man.
A Deep Voiceless Wilderness won’t be for everyone who reads this site, or every Neurosis fan to be honest. No Wilderness Deep Enoughprobably wasn’t either, given that this is the same music only with the guiding musings of Von Till. However, if you find solace in using music as a backdrop to create your own narrative and surrender your mood to a journey, rather than be lead through a story, then it remains a beautiful experience to surrender yourself to.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden