Barren Harvest, the collaborative project from Atriarch's Lenny Smith and Worm Ouroboros's Jessica Way is now available for pre-order from our friends at the visionary label Handmade Birds. This is without question one of the highlights of the early part of 2014, and is sure to stand up to the barrage of amazing music coming out during the rest of this calendar year.
The album is called Subtle Cruelties, and as you listen to the record and get quite literally lost in the wide variety of sounds that it contains, it is rather easy to understand why the title is what it is. To call it a folk record or an ambient record would be the way of the simple-minded, because what it really comes down to is that this is a record of poetry, of truly transcendent art. There is poetry in the lyrical content for sure, but it doesn't end there. The music on the album, which focuses on acoustic arrangements using guitars, synthesizers, and the delicate interplay of the voices of Way and Smith, creates a web of dark, haunting, desperate poetry that resonates deep inside the listener, and is capable of shaking the cores of our very souls. To listen to this record, to truly give in to its beauty, is a moving experience to say the very least.
I don't know how Way and Smith found each other, or how they came together to create this fragile and stunning music, but they have created something very special and unique. I expected a beautiful record, but I think I was expecting something more cerebral than this, which instead comes across as emotionally intense and almost primal. Nature's defenses, like our own, become aged, stressed, threadbare; when those defenses are broken down, we are left unbearably vulnerable. This is the story that Subtle Cruelties seems to tell.
As much as I love this record, I am left with the cynical conclusion that a lot of people just won't be ready for it. I have to stress, though, that if you are capable of truly opening your heart and your spirit to the nearly palpable heartbreak of this record, you'll have no choice than to love it.
Available in black and gold vinyl versions (the ultra-limited clear vinyl edition with leaves pressed inside the vinyl sold out in just a few hours), and on CD as well, from Handmade Birds (via Thrill Jockey), here.