Sometimes the ravenous darkness crashes down to feast on your soul, and sometimes it flinches timidly away from all of your grasping. Last Friday, Aborted callously mounted the Deciblog to bring you a terrifying few minutes of violent death metal; today, we showcase the more ethereal side of shadows with new music from Barren Harvest. This fragile acoustic project matches the talents of Atriarch’s Lenny Smith (also of Trees) and Worm Ouroboros’ Jessica Way. Anyone familiar with the pair’s separate projects should immediately recognize the slow, determined downward vortex created in this music. Without exaggeration, without overstatement, the near-fifty-minute debut album wraps insistent fingers around listeners’ brains and somehow drags them beneath, not above, corporeality.
The duo told Decibel a bit about the project’s origins and execution, which you can read while listening to “Coil Uncoil,” the album’s seventh track. The excellent Handmade Birds will release Subtle Cruelties on March 25.
Do you feel that Barren Harvest has allowed you to explore ideas (musically, conceptually) that are different from your work with other bands?
Way: Barren Harvest is a more vulnerable and delicate project, the arrangements are pared down, it allows me to play acoustically. WO focuses on light and dark, heavy and subdued, where as Barren Harvest is an interplay between male and female energies, but it hovers in the subdued dream space, without crescendoing into doom as our other bands do. Lyrically there are some similar themes between Atriarch, Worm Ouroboros, and Barren Harvest, but I think there is oddly a sense of hope in our heavier bands that is not present here.
Smith: Singing only clean has been really different for me, although it has allowed me to grow as an artist. Only being able to work with [Jessica] when we are able to travel instead of having a set rehearsal schedule has challenged us in a new yet positive way as well.
Can you break down the writing process for us? How much of the process was collaborative (working simultaneously) and how much was fully formed ideas brought to the table by one of you?
Way: The process is collaborative and in person. I go up to Oregon to work with Lenny or he comes here. We spend whatever time we have just writing and recording. Most of what is on this record was written and recorded the same day. Sometimes one of us will write part of a song, lyrics, or a musical part ahead of time, but we rarely finish something without each other. Because we only work when we are together over a limited amount of days the process is very intense and immersive.
Can you give our readers (admittedly mostly interested in loud extreme music) some insight into other artists that have informed your interest in making this kind of music?
Way: I’ve always had an interest in dark folk music. One of the first artists I was obsessed with as a child was Martin Carthy, he was a part if the British traditional music/folk revival of the 60s. Many of the songs he plays are tragic and murderous. Aside from that, these artists had a huge influence on our aesthetic: Dead Can Dance, Swans, This Mortal Coil, Angelo Badalamenti, Current 93, Death in June, Sol Invictus.
Have you played this music live for an audience?
Not yet but we are plotting.
Do you feel this is a beginning for Barren Harvest, with more places you’d like to go with the project? Or does this album fulfill your goals for now?
Black Horizons is releasing some of our older recordings that we had previously released online in a triple 7″ set. We started writing/recording for a new record in December. Some of that will be released digitally later this year. We are working on our live set. This is an ongoing project, and we plan to keep writing together for the foreseeable future.