Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Steve Von Till: A Life Unto Itself (2015)

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about any dark Americana music. But a new Steve Von Till isn’t something I could just ignore, is it?

The record again finds our man in the pattern of playing a few acoustic guitar chords, singing a line, playing a chord, singing a line, and playing a few more chords. He doesn’t really play and sing at the same time, which is a perfectly acceptable way to approach this kind of music. However, sticking to that pattern the whole record, and playing everything at the same pace for a full 45 minutes, might bother some listeners.

Thankfully, other dynamic elements are here to save it from becoming too monotonous. Beautifully morose fiddle and percussion weave into “A Language of Blood,” while elsewhere you can hear synths, piano, and even a few heavy, distorted guitar riffs.

Unfortunately, on A Life Unto Itself, I get the distinct impression that the added instrumentation is essential to making it listenable, and not just a nice added touch. This type of music should stand on its own with just one man and a guitar, but I fear this record doesn’t. I enjoy the mood, and the sounds, but the songs just aren’t as good as they were on his last solo record.

Of the two Neurosis dudes who are playing this kind of music, I had liked Von Till’s contributions better, but Scott Kelly’s last one was a huge improvement. And now, A Life Unto Itself doesn’t really add a whole lot that wasn’t there before. It may even be a slight step backward, in terms of songwriting.

The Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars

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