Steve Von Till’s third full-length release as Harvestman dates from 2005, as regards the time it was recorded. So while it’s arguably overdue to be put onto compact disc, Trinity also marks the first time that the Neurosis guitarist has tried his hand at soundtrack work – which some might say has been too long coming as well, given his considerable and rightly lauded talent for conveying unease and portent in his music. The film Trinity soundtracks is an Italian horror, H2Odio, which is largely unseen outside of its home nation. Set in and around a remote and rundown cottage, Von Till seems to be aiming to mirror the creepy isolation that apparently dominates the screen. As a ‘standard’ studio album it’s overlong at 71 minutes, but to the extent that beauty and atmosphere are measurable qualities, it matches previous Harvestman discs, and with a significantly sparser array of instruments – mere guitar and FX almost exclusively, indeed.
There is every chance that before another Neurosis album ships, Von Till – and indeed Neurosis bandmate Scott Kelly, himself a dab hand at the grand Southern Gothic croak – will issue more solo work. As a ‘unit’, Neurosis appear to work to no strict schedule. Maybe this will frustrate some of their fans, one who believe that the men of Neurosis were put on this earth to fill thousands of cubic feet of humid air with heavy, scything riffs. To this putative fan, Harvestman may be a red and indulgent herring, a puzzle book idly completed during downtime to distract from more important tasks. This, of course, does Trinity a disservice.
By no means recorded with the engineered density of a latter-day Neurosis album, these 16 tracks make capital from their minimalist makeup. If you’ve achieved blissout to the twisted spaghetti western ‘scapes of Earth’s last few albums, you’ll probably get something out of cuts like ‘Dig’ and ‘Dead Flowers’; elsewhere, it’s the sort of thing that would have played well in the mid-to-late Nineties, when there was an extensive and fascinating underground of bedroom-recorded drone-rock. (Flying Saucer Attack are one of the first names Harvestman’s Myspace page lists as an influence.) The occasional descent into near-pure, beatless space drone (‘The Thunderer’) has a further precedent in the work of Tribes Of Neurot, Neurosis’ ambient sideline whose Grace album was designed to be synced up with Neurosis’ 1999 classic Times Of Grace.
H2Odio’s director Alex Infascelli, one reads, was compelled to seek out Von Till for soundtrack duties in 2005 after hearing a Harvestman album. This was presumably Lashing The Rye, the project’s debut which was released that year. To that end, one wonders if the director got the results he expected. A few songs from Lashing The Rye also appear on Trinity, as it happens, but the bulk of the former’s DNA derives from British folk idioms, specifically reassembled bagpipe music (‘March To Loch Barren’) and trad. arr. tunes along the lines of versions by John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and Steeleye Span. ‘Sheep-Crook And Black Dog’, known to Von Till in its early Seventies Steeleye Span version, turns up towards Trinity’s end, and is one of its busiest moments – it starts with astral twinkles of Hawkwindy synth and ecclesiastical female vocals, before an acoustic folk motif takes brief control, wrestling with the electric hum for dominance of the piece.
In A Dark Tongue, the previous Harvestman release – less than a year on shelves at the time of writing – found Von Till taking the mildly unpredictable sidestep into drone-fixated spacerock. While Neurosis’ zeal for the epic, starry blaze has long been part of their arsenal, the guitarist seemed to be more in thrall to Jason Pierce’s meanderings in Spacemen 3 and early Spiritualized than anything else. Trinity, meanwhile, boasts a track titled ‘Pure Phase’, which has to be a tribute of sorts. Although Trinity might have been recorded prior to In A Dark Tongue, together each makes sense of the other. What Trinity assuredly isn’t is a replacement for a new Neurosis album. Steve Von Till has given more to metal in the last two decades than almost anyone else working in the genre, and is more than entitled to embark on deviations like this, especially when they turn out to be wholly worthy.
7Noel Gardner's Score