Dusted Reviews

August Born - August Born

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: August Born

Album: August Born

Label: Drag City

Review date: Aug. 15, 2005

Lo and behold, Benjamin Chasny is in the midst of a banner year. In addition to touring with heavy psych trippers Comets on Fire and recording and supporting the excellent School of the Flower record as Six Organs of Admittance, the man has found the time to help give a boost to the re-emergence of lost 70s outsider folk icon Gary Higgins and penned some liner notes for VHF's reissue of former Fushitsusha drummer Hiroyuki Usui's Holy Letters record (which was released under the pseudonym "L" over a decade ago). August Born is Chasny's latest venture, this time uniting him with his apparent spiritual brother in arms Usui for a cycle of songs and moody meditations that finds the trans-Pacific duo embracing each other's spheres of sound through swapped tapes that each artist recorded in their native country.

Usui tipped his hand towards the blues with a ghostly reading of Blind Willie Johnson's "Cold Was the Ground" that opened Holy Letters before diving headlong into the heart-wrenching "fifty-three minute diary" that encompassed that long player. In contrast, Chasny's music has never seemed as overtly personal, although his acid folk figures and tumescent drones are more than introspective in their own oblique way. The connection here, however, is more in the spiritual rather than sonic or the narrative, and while much of the music bears one guitarist’s heavy hand over the other, it still strangely feels of a piece. The push and pull between Chasny's and Usui's poles of influence and performance is more than evident, and yet somehow the music mostly manages to reach that plane of symbiosis.

But it takes a while. The album initially feels like a series of rough sketches, squares of patchwork quilt slowly sewn together through a less than ideal back-and-forth recording process. These gradually take their places as fragments of the whole, a series of snapshots that begin to show themselves after the disc has run its natural course. "Dead Bird Blues" evidences Usui at the helm, all hard-strummed banjo and lilting vocal line that ends just as it begins to establish itself. But then "More Dead Bird Blues" picks up on that thread and expands it, adding birdsong and Chasny's guitar lines to Usui's plaintive vocal drones. "Last Breath of the Bird" finishes the thought, hiding any seams with sunburst guitar and loose, roaming percussion.

Chasny comes to the fore on "Birds & Sun & Clay" with his now unmistakable guitar and vocal slant, thus ushering in the second half of the album. His string work becomes more prominent here, but Usui's vocals and free percussion seem to direct more than anything; his naked voice carries both "Songs of the Dead" and the gentle spoken word of "Providence." But Chasny is always right there beside him, supplying luminous fretwork that gradually becomes a perfect fit, climaxing with the gentle lope of his solo take on "You Will Be Warm."

August Born, then, becomes an interesting and unexpected collaboration. While poring through Chasny's back catalogue after a listen to Holy Letters, it becomes obvious that Usui's work had a profound impact on the Six Organs' oeuvre. And though he seems to defer more than a bit to Hiroyuki Usui, Ben Chansy holds his own over the course of the album and makes his voice heard in subtle, sublime ways. August Born is rough-hewn in parts, teeming with a variety of flotsam and jetsam as the two collaborators reconcile a common language.

By Michael Crumsho

Read More

View all articles by Michael Crumsho

Find out more about Drag City

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.