Neurosis’ Steve Von Till discusses his favorite albums of 2020
When Neurosis co-frontman Steve Von Till set out to make No Wilderness Deep Enough -- his first solo album in five years -- he originally planned for it to be an ambient instrumental album -- a genre he explores in Neurosis sister band Tribes of Neurot and solo as Harvestman -- but then after he hooked up with producer Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth, Marissa Nadler, etc) and added cello (by Brent Arnold) and french horn (by Aaron Korn), Dunn encouraged Von Till to sing over the music, and Von Till obliged. When you listen to No Wilderness Deep Enough, you can hear how it very much could have been an ambient album, with its layers of bubbling electronics, and that plus the string and horn arrangements is no small part of what makes this a much more embellished album than your average acoustic guitar singer/songwriter album. (Not that anything Steve Von Till does is "average.") Like much of his previous work, the songs on No Wilderness Deep Enough pretty much sound like the quiet, folky moments on late-period Neurosis albums (A Sun That Never Sets onwards), and that's a very appealing thing.
Neurosis co-frontman Steve Von Till returned this year with his excellent new solo album No Wilderness Deep Enough (that's an excerpt of my review from Notable Releases above), and since the year is coming to a close, we asked Steve what his favorite albums of 2020 were. He included the collaborative album from Petbrick and Deafkids (the latter of whom are on Neurosis' Neurot Recordings), legends like Neil Young and Nick Cave, and other cool stuff like Wardruna, Six Organs of Admittance, The Budos Band, and more. Read on for what Steve had to say about each pick:
Six Organs of Admittance - Companion Rises
Ben Chasny’s releases often have the uncanny ability to meet me right where I am and to be exactly what I need to hear in the moment. This year’s Companion Rises is exactly that. Dreamlike beauty and luminescent clouds of sound.
Trees Speak - Ohms
An inspired take on krautrock motorik beats and driving repetition with the textures of early Tangerine Dream. Great synth sounds. Psychedelic kosmische musik.
The Budos Band - Long in the Tooth
One of my favorite bands of recent years. They somehow manage to flawlessly merge what I love about Fela Kuti and early Santana with the mood and vibe of the first Black Sabbath record. I can imagine the act of playing this music in a room with other humans must be just about the most fun you could have in a band.
Jóhann Jóhannsson and Yair Elazar Glotman - Last and First Men
Jóhann Jóhannsson is my favorite modern classical composer. I was devastated to hear of his death back in 2018, as he should have still had a lifetime of boundary pushing works ahead of him. I was surprised to learn of this posthumous release this year and blown away when I heard it. The dark orchestration combined with tape manipulations and plenty of space to breathe is moody and contemplative just as I like it. Even better than the soundtrack itself is listening to the audio from the film which is essentially the soundtrack with Tilda Swinton reading channeled text transmission from a future history of the last version of our species. And don’t even get me started about the incredible meditation that is the film itself. Get the DVD and immerse yourself.
Deafkids and Petbrick - Deafbrick
Yes I am biased on this one. I have been championing Deafkids from Brazil ever since first hearing their music in 2016. We have taken them on tour and put out their last couple albums on Neurot Recordings. This new collaboration with noisemongers Petbrick from the UK is on another level.
Neil Young - Homegrown
What?! An entire scrapped album from his classic period between On the Beach and Zuma. Need I say more?
Wardruna - Grá
One of the most important groups of the last decade. Breathing new life into ancient ideas and instruments, and seamlessly weaving a sonic tapestry of mystery and animism.
Weird Walk Zine - Number Three Midsummer 2020
Self described as “a journal of wanderings and wonderings from the British Isles” this is the first zine I can think of to cater to my interests in megaliths, folklore, legends, old ways and the deeper connections between people and places throughout the ages.
Nick Cave - Idiot Prayer: Nick Cave Alone at Alexandra Palace (Streaming Performance)
Ghosteen and Skeleton Key are two of the best records in recent years. Witnessing Nick Cave’s transformation out of personal tragedy into one of the most compassionate and thoughtful philosopher / poets of our age has been inspiring. Since the lockdown and the loss of live music, most of what we have been given has been crappy cell phone footage from people’s living rooms. That’s cool I guess in a DIY sorta way, but having a cinematically shot, dramatic solo performance of this caliber is the way to answer the call of the times.
Browse our Best of 2020 tag for more year-end lists.