Steve Von Till
Steve Von Till has made a life’s work out of seeking the elemental. With a solo discography that stretches back more than two decades, he has toiled in a shadow realm, peeling back layers of reality in a never-ending search for true meaning and raw emotion. A Deep Voiceless Wilderness strips back the veil even further. An achingly beautiful ambient work with neo-classical leanings, the album is a hallucinatory and elegant rumination on our disconnect from the natural world, each other, and ultimately ourselves. For some listeners, the album may recall the work of modern composers like Jóhann Jóhannsson, Brian Eno or Gavin Bryars. For Von Till, it’s about surrendering to the spirit of place—and to the original intent behind his 2020 solo album, No Wilderness Deep Enough. That album marked a significant first for Von Till: It was his first solo record without a guitar in hand. Instead, Von Till intoned powerful and thought-provoking lyrics over piano, cello, mellotron and analog synthesizers. A Deep Voiceless Wilderness is that same album without Von Till’s words. “This is how I originally heard this piece of music,” he says. “Without the voice as an anchor or earthbound narrative, these pieces have a broader wingspan. They become something else entirely and unfold in a more expansive way. The depth of the synths, juxtaposed with the strings and French horn, have space to develop and allow the listener to imagine their own story.” Also a first for Von Till was Harvestman: 23 Untitled Poems and Collected Lyrics, his first book of poetry. Published by the University of South Dakota’s Astrophil Press, the book established Von Till as a formidable and thoughtful author of verse—a fact that Neurosis fans knew all along, but the wider world was only just becoming aware of. “There is a depth of hope, acceptance and loss that permeates these poems,” Joseph Haeger said in his review for The Inlander. “Like any great piece of art, Harvestman contains multitudes, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for when I cracked it open. Von Till has already established himself as a great musician, and he’s about to put his stake into the ground proving himself to be a damn good writer.”
Cellist and composer Alison Chesley has been busy since the 2016 release of Become Zero (Thrill Jockey). She transcribed Bob Mould’s string arrangements and performed cello on his latest record, Sunshine Rock; co-wrote and recorded a horror movie soundtrack with producer-engineer Steve Albini and guitarist Tim Midyett that is set for release on Touch and Go Records later this year; toured extensively throughout the US and Europe as a headliner and opened for Grails, The Messthetics, and doom metal legends, Earth; and with writing partner Will Thomas she composed music used for the trailer of the film The Invisible Man. Most importantly, she wrote and recorded the tracks for Atomic, her new album released on Thrill Jockey on March 20, 2020. The reviews for Atomic are strong and are consistent with the response Chesley received when she performed music from the album on last Winter’s tour with Earth. Echoes and Dust, a London based webzine, is typical. "Starting with ‘Facing the Sun’ from Become Zero, Money uses violent bowing and gritty distortion to quickly establish what can only be known as Cello Doom: huge violent bursts, following her trademark patterns of closely-slurred, eerily beautiful double-stop harmonies. On ‘Nemesis’ (from Atomic), Money uses her cello as even more of a percussive instrument, roughly striking the distorted strings with her bow, like sawing metal on metal, the tone dial on full treble to allow for all the detail of sharp clonks and clanks. I’m fascinated watching the spider-like spread of her left hand, fingering complex, full chords, and as she methodically strikes the strings behind the nut for high, piano-like sounds." Cutting across multiple genres including classical, punk, indie rock and metal, her cello playing can be found on over 150 albums including recordings from artists as diverse as Anthrax, Chris Connely, Russian Circles, Broken Social Scene, Bob Mould, Sea and Cake, Mono, and Verbow, the late 1990s band she co-founded with guitarist Jason Narducy that began her move away from classical cello. Chesley has also opened and toured with artist such as Shellac, Sleep, Neurosis, Mono, and Russian Circles. Atomic is Alison Chesley’s fifth album of solo material following Helen Money (Cellobird Records 2007), In Tune (Table of The Elements, 2009), Arriving Angels (Profound Lore, 2012) and Become Zero (Thrill Jockey, 2016). She currently resides in Chicago.