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Six Organs Of Admittance

Psychedelic folk comes no more effervescent or wigged-out than Ben Chasny’s indie outfit SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE. Formed in 1998 as a side-project to rather louder Plague Lounge, the Californian one-man show from Santa Cruz soon became his predominant project, although he’d continue to jam and record with COMETS ON FIRE (from 2003 onwards), Badgerlore, CURRENT 93, Magik Markers and Rangda; the latter alongside SIR RICHARD BISHOP (of Sun City Girls) and SOOA sidekick Chris Corsano.
Although one can’t confess to exploring every avenue of Ben’s raft of releases (initially on his own Holy Mountain imprint), his raga-style excursions had enough hypnotic structure on board to render them listenable. The eponymous SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE (1998) {*6} would kick-start proceedings, one track in particular `Sum Of All Heaven’ was all of 17 minutes and very flower-power JEFFERSON AIRPLANE.
DUST & CHIMES (1999) {*7}, NIGHTLY TREMBLING (2000) {*7} and mini-set THE MANIFESTATION (2000) {*6} – the latter with an added length-side piece featuring Jennifer Juniper Stratford and Utrillo Kushner (percussion, electronics) – came thick and fast; his guitar fingerpicking taking on the mantle of some modern-day BASHO, BULL or FAHEY. DARK NOONTIDE (2002) {*8} took this one step further, a truly masterwork of perfection headed by `Khidr And The Mountain’, `Spirits Abandoned’ and the title track. Ben’s Eastern influences (Tibetan or Buddhist) were an integral design and template for follow-on works FOR OCTAVIO PAZ (2003) {*6} and COMPATHIA (2003) {*6}.
Where else than Drag City Records would understand the meaning of Chasny’s free-folk sketches; the aforementioned Corsano (on organ and percussion) soaking in a great deal of the ambience on SOOA’s experimental SCHOOL OF THE FLOWER (2005) {*7}; check out their version of GARY HIGGINS’ `Thicker Than A Smokey’.
Group recording and without Corsano) THE SUN AWAKENS (2006) {*8} took freak-folk to new levels, probably outside its own thin-line perimeters; 24 minutes of `River Of Transfiguration’ was the ultimate proof. Solo outing SHELTER FROM THE ASH (2007) {*7} re-defined his sense of acoustic purity, set out from the get-go on the FAHEY-esque `Alone With The Alone’. LUMINOUS LIGHT (2009) {*7} and ASLEEP ON THE FLOODPLAIN (2011) {*7} stretched out Chasny even further having been cut while he worked between his newfound abodes in Seattle and San Francisco; the latter was recorded on his lonesome, as was his one-off self-financed live set MARIA KAPEL (2011) {*6}.
Sprawling, spaced-out and almost abandoning folk for full-out fuzz guitars and other instrumentation (from COMETS ON FIRE a la Noel von Harmonson, Utrillo Kushner, Ben Flashman and Ethan Miller), Chasny and Co excelled on the high-flying ASCENT (2012) {*8}; `Close To The Sky’, `Even If You Knew’ and `Visions (From Lo)’ all reaching out as if from a distant planet.
Maintaining a link with Noel (taking on drums again instead of guitar) and a couple of bass players, the directional of 2015’s HEXADIC {*7} came strictly via his new-found process-generated system of the same name. Utilising an improvised unique card element that freed musicians to incorporate tonal and fret changes, the guitar especially became interwoven and repetitive. As cold and calculated as this may seem, the avant-garde aspect of Chasny’s turn-the-folk-off workouts (from `The Ram’ and `Wax Chance’ to `Vestige’ and `Guild’), sustained a radiant and primordial sensation.
Following on from the HEXADIC II (2015) {*6} vinyl/cassette album (check out the avant-folk `Exultation Wave’), and another low-key set shared with William Tyler (PARALLELOGRAM A LA CARTE (2015) {*5}), Chasny’s SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE dispatched umpteenth album, BURNING THE THRESHOLD (2017) {*7}. Drag City Records were again at the helm of this rich and reflective recording that entwined finger-picking guitar licks with soft pastoral harmony structures. At times JANSCH-esque or BASHO-like, guests such as RYLEY WALKER, DAMON & NAOMI, CRYING LION et al, comforted the moods and swings of the long-ish `Taken By Ascent’, plus `Things As They Are’, `Adoration’, and the uplifting `St. Eustace’.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD // rev-up MCS Feb2015-Mar2017

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