Sunday, August 31, 2008

Steve von Till – A Grave is a Grim Horse (J)

Since 1983, Steve von Till has shaken the earth beneath our feet playing guitar and providing vocals for the legendary Sludge/Post-Hardcore monolith that is Neurosis. Eventually, in 2000, von Till released his first solo album, titled “As the Crow Flies,” bearing a striking, albeit slower, resemblance to classic singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. That being, in 2002 von Till followed up his first release with “If I Should Fall to the Field,” a much more in-depth recording, featuring slide guitars and orchestral backing to contrast his low, somber voice.

Six years pass due to his prior engagements with Neurosis, and his latest release finally arrives.

“A Grave is a Grim Horse” is, personally, von Till’s most powerful release to date. While still containing the usual droning guitars and raspy voice, this album has a much more “desert-sounding” motif. Hell, the first time I listened to the title track, I closed my eyes and vividly pictured myself driving a rusted pickup truck down a desert highway, with the wind in my hair, but then again, that’s my overtly romantic view of music talking.

“Grave” has some of Steve von Till’s most memorable and catchy vocal lines throughout his entire discography. The simple pentatonic (bluesy) crooned chorus of “The Acre” is one of those melodies that sticks in your head for days, but, luckily, isn’t one of those torturous 90s pop sensations that tell you what you “really really want.”

For me, the stand-out track on this release has to be the cover of Nick Drake’s “Clothes of Sand,” but that’s mainly due to my obscene love of Nick Drake’s recordings. Von Till most definitely does Nick Drake justice with this track, which is unfortunately the shortest song of the entire disc.

As stated earlier, a distinct desert/western/cowboy/country motif is very prevalent in “A Grave is a Grim Horse.” Songs such as “Willow Tree” are excellent examples of this, with multiple layers of fiddle (slow fiddle, not cousin-fucking fiddle) and slide guitar to give it that nice down-home southern feeling.

Overall, I find “A Grave is a Grim Horse” to be one of the most powerful and emotionally moving pieces of this year, containing some of the most somber melodies to ever enter my cranial cavity.

For fans of: Nick Drake, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, America, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Neurosis, and Wolves in the Throne Room (just to throw everyone off).

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