Six Organs of Admittance
(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Six Organs of Admittance (1998), 7.5/10
Nightly Trembling (1999), 5.5/10
Dust and Chimes (2000), 6.5/10
Dark Noontide (2002), 6.5/10
Compathia (2003), 5.5/10
For Octavio Paz (2003), 7/10
School Of The Flower (2005), 5.5/10
The Sun Awakens (2006), 6.5/10
Shelter from the Ash (2007), 5.5/10
Luminous Night (2009), 4.5/10
Asleep On The Floodplain (Drag City, 2011), 5/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Six Organs of Admittance, the project of California-based acoustic guitarist Ben Chasny (a resident of McKinleyville), debuted with Six Organs of Admittance (Holy Mountain, 1998), a collection of mostly-instrumental meditations. The overture of Maria is an intricate John Fahey-ian guitar raga woven against the ominous backdrop of an extended low note. Harmonice Mundi II is a dirty electronic drone propelled by a muffled pounding drum.
The 17-minute Sum of All Heaven is a piece in three parts. The slow, trancey hymn is a somewhat contrite and almost gloomy version of the joyful mantras of vintage hippie groups such as One. The slow-burning jam juxtaposes acoustic guitar, electric feedback and electronic noises. The third part is simply a foggy procession of metallic and wooden percussion.
The nine-minute Race for Vishnu is a lengthy guitar solo that abandons the ecstatic mood for a vibrant rhythmic crescendo more reminiscent of Taj Mahal's possessed blues exorcisms than of Hindu ritual music.
The CD version includes the two tracks of the 2000 single: Invitation to the SR for Supper, a sinister monk-like chant/invocation amid thunderous percussion, and Don't Be Afraid, a rather disjointed instrumental meditation.

Following the limited-edition Nightly Trembling (1999 - Time-Lag, 2003) and the lengthy single The Manifestation (Ba Da Bing, 2000), a ceremony of chaotic tribal drumming and free-form guitar strumming (at first ruined by some obnoxious babbling but at the end salvaged by a nine-minute imploding coda), the more fragmented

Dust and Chimes (Pavilion, 2000) continued that journey into the secret life of acoustic guitar tones. Ben Chasny embarrasses himself in exotic-tinged litanies such as Hollow Light Severed Sun and Black Needle Rhymes, as well as in instrumentals that are not particularly impressive or creative (the most valuable, Sophia, is merely a gloomy drone over casual percussion). Thankfully, it also contains two longer tracks. They move erratically, their shapes blurred and ephemeral. The eleven-minute instrumental Journey Through Sankuan Pass sounds like a deliberate chaos of tiny notes that are kept from forming a shape. They are like the multitude of moon sparks in the ocean. The seven-minute Dance Among the Waiting couples a hypnotic chant with ghostly sound effects and a steady guitar beat.

Vocals almost spoiled the magic on Dark Noontide (Holy Mountain, 2002), a better-sounding work that is not necessarily more inspired. The psychedelic factor prevails over the old "eastern" core of his music (Spirits Abandoned, Dark Noontide, Khidr and the Fountain).

Unfortunately, Ben Chasny decided to become a psych-pop singer-songwriter on Compathia (Holy Mountain, 2003). Despite the metaphysical vertigo of Close To The Sky, the album marked a regression to a more conventional form of rock music.

For Octavio Paz (Time-Lag, 2003 - Holy Mountain, 2004) returned to the lo-fi (and mostly instrumental) trance of his early works, exuding a sense of calm and cheerful resignation in the face of life's turmoils. That mood benefits from the effervescent quasi-flamenco strumming that permeates the seven-minute dance They Fixed The Broken Windmill Today, but is almost negated by the much more pensive and turbulent stream of consciousness of the 18-minute The Acceptance of Absolute Negation (the track is 28-minute long but the last ten minutes are unrelated), one of the peaks of his art. While the format evokes John Fahey, the content couldn't be more different. Chasny charges like a force of nature, radiating vital energy and titanic anger, alternating the most vibrant excesses with brief meditational passages, as if self-analyzing his own emotions.

The Manifestation (Ba Da Bing, 2004) collects the single Manifestation (2000) and a new six-part suite, The Six Stations, composed by Ben Chasny as he improvised around the noise produced by playing on a turntable the etching of the sun that appears on the back of the original single. The hissing and crackling of the vinyl is a minor annoyance (it's like someone reading aloud the notes that she is playing), and guest Tibet's spoken-word piece is a major annoyance, but the guitar improvisation is one of his most lively, worthy of John Fahey's lighter moments.

School Of The Flower (Drag City, 2005) was a brief album permeated by a sense of almost zen-like humility and detachment from reality. The lullaby-like melody of Eighth Cognition rises from intricate guitar patterns and vocal harmonies, a merge of Saint Cloud John Fahey's guitar fantasy and the Grateful Dead's acid trips. Other than the Donovan-esque Thicker Than A Smokey there is little to hold one's interest among the shorter songs. The 13-minute School Of The Flower is a different beast altogether, an unlikely (and not fully realized) wedding of minimalist repetition, free jazz and space-rock.

The centerpiece of The Sun Awakens (Drag City, 2006) is the 24-minute River Of Transfiguration, featuring Sleep's Al Cisneros on bass, one of their artistic peaks. White noise, harsh drones, gongs: after seven minutes a somber chant rises from the ashes. Eighteen minutes into the piece, the chant turns into a Tibetan-style buzz. The other tracks exhibit the usual limits of Six Organs Of Admittance's predictable and amateurish folk music. Black Wall is the notable exception.

Ben Chasny is slowly mutating into a traditional singer-songwriter and Six Organs' Shelter from the Ash (Drag City, 2007) is just one stage in that (musically) painful transition. He contents himself with recycling the trademark attributes of his sound, while adding new meaning to his lyrics. Thus this is really meant to be the album of the brief Alone With The Alone, not of the lengthy The Final Wing. The instrumental Goddess Atonement is place in the middle as a sort of center of mass towards the various parts still gravitate.

Badgerlore was the supergroup of Tom Carter of Charalambides, Ben Chasney of Six Organs Of Admittance, Pete Swanson of the Yellow Swans and Rob Fisk of Seven Year Rabbit Cycle that recorded Stories For Owls (Free Porcupine Society, 2005). Glen Donaldson of Blithe Sons and Liz Harris of Grouper joined the merry men for We Are All Hopeful Farmers, We Are All Scared Rabbits (Xeric, 2007).

August Born (Drag City, 2005) was a collaboration between Ben Chasny of Six Organs Of Admittance and Hiroyuki Usui of L.

Luminous Night (Drag City, 2009) continued the trend of Six Organs of Admittance towards a more sober and traditional form of folk revival (and way more professionally produced). The medieval dance of Actaeon's Fall is both melodic and rhythmic, and could have featured on both the British folk albums of the late 1960s and the new-age albums of the 1980s. Because of the higher (and louder) production values and the emphasis on catchiness, Anesthesia and Ursa Minor sound dangerously like mainstream pop. Atmospheric songs such as Bar-Nasha retain some of the old otherworldly appeal but ultimately there is little here that can match the days of yore. Even the electronic-noise mantra Cover Your Wounds With The Sky, that in theory would be the closest thing to vintage Six Organs of Admittance, adds touches of chamber music that sound kitschy and new-agey; and the closer, Enemies Before The Light, a psychedelic chant wrapped in noise, delves into some kind of distorted guitar jam that sounds positively outdated. The simultaneously majestic and languid River Of Heaven might represent the clue to a meaningful future without the intricate guitar ragas of the past.

The double-disc release RTZ (Drag City, 2009) collects live and unreleased material.

The split album Six Organs Of Admittance/ Azul (PSF, 2009) contains a sidelong jam from Six Organs.

Meanwhile, the trio of Sir Richard Bishop, Six Organs of Admittance's Ben Chasny and Chris Corsano formed Rangda (two guitars and drums) to record False Flag (Drag City, 2010).

Ben Chasny and Elisa Ambrogio (of the Magik Markers) formed 200 Years that debuted with the acoustic 200 Years (Drag City, 2011).

Rangda was a two-guitar supergroup formed by Richard Bishop of the Sun City Girls, Ben Chasny of Six Organs of Admittance and Chris Corsano that debuted on the instrumental False Flag (Drag City, 2010).

Empty The Sun (Drag City, 2010) is the soundtrack to Joseph Mattson's novel "Empty The Sun".

The bedroom album Asleep On The Floodplain (Drag City, 2011), a return to the humble and lazy tone of School Of The Flower, was mostly dejavu for Six Organs Of Admittance's fans, despite the catchy Light of the Light and the complex twelve-minute S/word and Leviathan.

Maria Kapel (Pavilion, 2011) compiles live Six Organs Of Admittance performances.

The single Parsons' Blues marked a turn towards a louder and stronger sound, confirmed by Ascent (Drag City, 2012) that, while credited to Six Organs Of Admittance, was basically a collaboration with the Comets On Fire.

(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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