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Six Organs Of Admittance - Shelter from the Ash

  by Dominic B. Simpson

published: 25 / 11 / 2007

Six Organs Of Admittance - Shelter from the Ash
Label: Drag City
Format: CD


Accessible latest album from tbe blues/drone-influenced Six Organs of Admittance, the solo project of Comets on Fire guitarist Ben Chasny, which seems potentially set to lead him to a bigger audience

The ongoing project of Comets on Fire guitarist Ben Chasny, Six Organs of Admittance have been prolific enough to release something like eight albums in ten years – not bad when you consider his day job in Comets in Fire, his appearance in David Tibet’s Current 93 project, associations with the Sunburned Hand of the Man, and who knows what other activities on the go. Along with the brilliant Jack Rose, Chasny takes his cue from the ‘American primitive guitar’ work of John Fahey, Robbie Basho and other artists that featured on the legendary Tacoma Records, whose work was characterised by a synthesis of American blues with the possibilities opened up by incorporating all kinds of open and alternative guitar tunes – one of which was to produce droning ‘raga’ workouts with modal tunings that are neither major nor minor. The effect was to produce a strange, almost sitar-like drone that gave the blues riffs a hypnotic feel. Perhaps Six Organs’ greatest work was 'School of the Flower', a beautifully realised encapsulation of Chasny’s mystical evocation (which also comes across in the Buddhist-like band name) of psych-folk crossed with freakout rock, drones and desolate blues, characterised by his airy, whispery voice. Whilst beautifully tender and evocative, the thirteen minute title track and the album opener, ‘Eighth Cognition / All You’ve Left’, also incorporated freak-outs, noise and organ drones, rather like Espers if they rocked out. The following album, 'The Sun Awakens', saw him explore darker potential in which he experimented further with the potentials of improvisation and drones, particularly on the mammoth twenty-three minute album closer, ‘River of Transfiguration’, which featured Al Cisneros from metal droners OM on bass. The appearance was symbolic, for it showed that while Six Organs is often acoustic, it nonetheless owes more to freak-out rock and Sabbath-style slowed-down metal than any self-absorbed singer-songwriter – a connection also made by the Japanese band Boris, whose sludge rock is interspersed with quiet folk guitar interludes. All of which brings us to 'Shelter From The Ash', Chasny’s latest effort, and his most straightforward sounding. It opens with the sound of steel guitars vibrating on ‘Alone With The Alone’, before heading straight into a tense, atmospheric duel of acoustic guitar riffs, cymbals and echoed vocals, like an ever-increasing fog. The track threatens to fly loose and freak out, but stays in a tense, smokey mode, as Chasny’s electric guitar lets rip over the top. It’s followed by the bare acoustic guitar of ‘Strangled Road’, accompanied by the faintest of reverbed electric guitar notes and the Magik Markers’ Elisa Ambrogio on backing vocals, the lyrics touching on “the horse that you ride on” as the protagonist rides into the American beyond. As with much of Six Organs music, it conjures us wide-open spaces at sunset – the deserts and canyons of California that Chasny has made home from his Oakland base. ‘Jade Like Wine’ uses an urgent acoustic guitar motif and interjecting Hammond organ against a backdrop of imagery of thorns and wine, while ‘Coming To Get You’ begins with an instrumental passage of echoing high notes and sustained wah-wah notes before morphing into a thick haze of drone, Chasny intoning images of “biting arms and bloody legs” before dispassionately asking “did you tear what once was tied / or was it just me?” The song explodes into a dirge-like cacophony of feedback and riffing, before becoming subdued once again, threatening perpetually to boil over. In contrast, ‘Goddess Atonement’ is Chasny at his most plangent, an instrumental acoustic raga workout with some wonderful fingerpicking that illustrates the influence of Fahey most clearly, though the song does burst into electrified life at the end, embellished with xylophones and organ. ‘Final Wing’, meanwhile, begins with a guitar progression that’s doubled up with piano, building over eight minutes to take into a full-on rock chorus. Though the track never quite fulfils its length, and the explosion of noise half way through is predictable, it still makes for compelling stuff, and makes way for the title track - Chasny at his best, a racing, widescreen rocker with a thrilling wah-wah guitar solo half-way through, and the album title repeated over and over again. Sadly, it’s far too short, with an unfinished feel to it, especially given the previous tracks’ duration.Still, the final, desolate acoustic lament ‘Goodbye’ is as good as anything Chasnay’s done, a mournful and gorgeous piece of music embellished only by his wordless sighs. It closes a compact (at only 40 minutes long), accessible album that could see Chasny finally opening up to a big audience.

Track Listing:-
1 Alone With The Alone
2 Strangled Road
3 Jade Like Wine
4 Coming To Get You
5 Goddess Atonement
6 Final Wing
7 Shelter From The Ash
8 Goodnight

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Interview (2007)
Six Organs Of Admittance - Interview
Guitarist Ben Chasny, who also plays in Comets on Fire and lots of other act, talks to Dominic Simpson about his psych-folk project Six Organs of Admittance and its new album, 'Shelter from the Ash'

live reviews

93 Feet East, London, 26/11/2007
Six Organs Of Admittance - 93 Feet East, London, 26/11/2007
At 93 Feet East in London, Dominic Simpson watches psych-folk act Six Organs of Admittance play a contemplative, but subdued and somewhat too restrained set to promote 'Shelter from the Ash', their much acclaimed latest album


Asleep in the Floodplan (2011)
Relaxed and accomplished folk-rock on latest album from American experimental group, Six Organs of Admittance

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