When future music historians reflect upon the late 20th century it would surprise many if the consolidation of musical genres would not be considered as the hallmark of the nineties. Post-grunge electronic and pop acts such as Peter Gabriel, Beck, the Orb, the Beastie Boys, and the Chemical Brothers, popularised the amalgamation of international sounds with sampling and other technologies.
Toronto’s Bitter Harvest have observed the unfolding of this phenomena and are obviously taking note. Composing non-traditional music in a traditional manner, Scott Mackay,( a.k.a. Bitter Harvest) composes original material that employs little or no sampling technology. Modern keyboard synthesis creates a lush backdrop for Mackay to showcase his skills as a percussionist, breathing a breath of fresh air into a consistently rigid electronic genre. Bitter Harvest achieve a dense, highly rewarding musical experience through the use of traditional hand drums, bells, chimes, and other percussion instruments.
Elements of drone, chant, ambient, industrial, and electronic, all appear throughout Bitter Harvest’s music, often all combined in the mix to create a ‘new world’ sound.
“The ethnic sounding rhythms are not of a specific ethnic origin” Mackay informs me. “Some ethnic sources are borrowed from, but the style is all its own. I could not do justice to a formalised rhythmic language of some foreign culture. Nor would I want to”.
Bitter Harvest embrace another very nineties ideal, the D.I.Y. (do it yourself) ethic. With a studio located within his downtown Toronto apartment, Mackay has self-produced Ritual Music for Broken Magick,his debut CD released on the Gaijin Records imprint. Recorded quickly over six months, the album was certainly not rushed. “It took me ten years to get the equipment, money, and technical skills to pull it off to my satisfaction”, states Mackay.
Aside from some minimal chanting, RMFBM is vocally bare. When questioned why he chose the path of instrumental somewhat meditative music rather than pop, Mackay had this to say. “I find electronic music to be more emotional than traditional pop music. My initial attraction to early Industrial and Experimental music was that it captured emotions not found in pop music. I also find instrumental music to be able to reach subtler, complex emotions that lyrics may only blur”.
Mood is a large part of the Bitter Harvest sound. Whatever emotions you are trying to tap into, there are certainly enough moods throughout RMFBM’s 8 tracks. What is especially rewarding with this debut release is that it satisfies countless emotions while remaining listenable and constant through rhythm.
“The songs”, Mackay offers, “were written around rhythmic ideas. Melody is used. Noise gets used. But I would not say it’s principally a noisy or melodic album. It’s rhythmic”. Indeed.
Dave Binette …..Indie Nation mag,,,,,,,feb 98