Renowned as a guitarist and vocalist with heavy music monolith Neurosis, Steve Von Till made his solo debut in 2000 with As the Crow Flies. Since then, he’s released several more solo projects, all based around his voice and acoustic guitar. On No Wilderness Deep Enough Von Till ventures into uncharted territory with a piano-based and entirely guitar-free album embroidered with strings, mellotron, and French horn. “This album really pulled a lot of different things out of me vocally and emotionally,” he tells Apple Music. “It took me to places that are outside my perceived comfort zone. I was just following sonic rabbit holes wherever they led me, so it never actually felt like I was laboring over it.” Below, Von Till leads us into the wilderness.
Dreams of Trees “When you’re writing songs, you end up with these working titles, which are kind of nonsense until you figure out what you’re going to call it. But this was a working title that actually stuck, which is a rare thing for me. Musically, I really wanted to open the album with this because of the mellotron strings—they really set the tone for where this whole thing was going. A lot of times my lyrics are as mysterious for me as they might be for anyone else, but looking at them today, it seems like they’re maybe circling around the idea of understanding what you do and do not have control over in your life, and where to focus your energy to be the most productive or effective in your own journey. But that’s just today. Tomorrow I may say something different.”
The Old Straight Track “I definitely stole the title from a book that was written in the 1920s by an Englishman named Alfred Watkins. My lyrics have nothing to do with the book, which was trying to explain how all the archeological mounds and stone sites and other places in Britain followed these ley lines—these lines of geomantic energy. It was largely dismissed as New Age bullshit, but it made sense for me to use as a title because it sounded great and there is a contemplation in the lyric about trying to reconcile the connection between the spirit and the land—and there’s even a wordplay between ‘lay’ and ‘ley’ in the lyrics.”
Indifferent Eyes “I think this was the very first chord progression of the entire record. It came to me in the corner of my wife's childhood bedroom in Northern Germany, where her family has been in that same exact house site for over 500 years. In that hallucinatory, middle-of-the-night state from jet lag, I think I was feeling particularly open and vulnerable to the spirit of the land itself. It started flowing through my own filters and obsessions, and came out as these simple piano progressions and very somber things I probably would not have chosen to do if I was more awake. But the impetus for the entire project started here.”
Trail the Silent Hours “I love the introduction sound to this. There’s a field recording of a seaside—that’s the white noise sound you hear—but then there’s this stuff that resembles some sort of weird digital flock of seabirds stuck in a delay unit. It came from flipping the master power switch on all the racks of gear in my home studio, and something about how I had everything set before I shut it down last forced this crazy sound to start shooting out of the speakers. To this day, I have no idea how it happened—I wish I could recreate it—but luckily I was able to capture it. Lyrically, it’s probably the most subdued piece. I don’t believe I return to any words, it just goes start to finish. There’s definitely some unspecified sadness in it, but I don’t know where it comes from or why.”
Shadows on the Run “Since this record was finished over a year ago, I really did not intend for these particular lyrics to feel so relevant to the moment. The day I released the video for this song, we’d already been on the coronavirus lockdown for a while and the country had just erupted in rage against injustice. So I second-guessed whether I should even put the video out, like maybe it was not appropriate. But the words are ‘If you want to save us from the house that is burning down/Lead us through the flame, remember all our names,’ and then ‘Call it what you will, the deadliest of all/Takes all that we adore, and everything we’ve known.’ So it felt very appropriate once I had seen the lyrics in that light.”
Wild Iron “I have no idea what this song means lyrically. It was channeled and assembled in the feverish days of improvising vocals to these abstract songs. But the words that kind of stick out to me are ‘Tear out my entrails to decipher, wounded dream, fragile and phantom.’ To me, those words seem very reminiscent of the seeker, someone seeking spiritual enlightenment, somebody on a path to it. And I don't know why, but I feel a resonance of some sort of shamanic healing practice present in this, maybe plant medicines or revelations that kind of expose our true being to ourselves, aside from the ego bullshit we present to the world.”