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Six Organs of Admittance - Shelter From the Ash

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Artist: Six Organs of Admittance

Album: Shelter From the Ash

Label: Drag City

Review date: Nov. 19, 2007


Six Organs Of Admittance - "Jade Like Wine" (Shelter From The Ash)


In all of Ben Chasny’s music as Six Organs of Admittance, even the pieces based around drones, more atomized sounds or his acoustic finger-picking, there’s still the hint of a song. That hint could be the vocal chant on the 20-minute “River of Transfiguration” from 2007’s The Sun Awakens or the minimalist riff at the heart of the title track from 2005’s School of the Flower, but their presence is undeniable – and absolutely necessary. These hints of structure, of something concrete, hold his eclectic albums together.

In the past it’s been easy to see the seams on a Six Organs record. Such visibility never really bothered me, because it was a sign that an animating imagination was at work. Musically and spiritually, Chasny seems hungry, searching, curious, and if it means his records end up with some rough edges, then so be it. In fact, it’s this unfinished quality, this suggestion of always being a work-in-progress, which charges a Six Organs record with tension.

On Shelter from the Ash, Chasny’s still got that restless tension, but he’s channeled it a bit more. He went into the studio with songs worked out, and it shows in every aspect of the record: the arrangements are tighter and more varied; the lyrics are fleshed out into more coherent narratives; and there are no massive drone pieces, a sign of self-restraint as well as shape. It’s bit of a risk for Chasny to polish his sound, but he’s succeeded in bottling the imaginative, audacious overflow of his past efforts into perhaps his most cohesive record yet.

Chasny’s always included one or two more conventionally arranged songs on his albums, but rather than resting on just one or two lines, this time around they are sturdier affairs. Verse and chorus are more prevalent and a storytelling urge is clear. The chorus of “Strangled Road” gets a heightened, haunted vibe from The Magik Markers’ Elisa Ambrogio. On “Jade Like Wine,” Chasny adds delicate brushstrokes of electric guitar, shadowing his creepy tale of mystical intoxication for maximum dramatic effect.

In this tighter context, Chasny’s instrumentals also take on more meaning. “Goddess Atonement” is his tribute to the brash exotica-and-esoterica of Richard Bishop and the Sun City Girls, while “Alone with the Alone” pursues a layered East-West blend similar to the one Sandy Bull reached for. The playing is intricate and ecstatic on both, yet they also manage to find their place in the larger tale Chasny is trying to spin with the eight pieces here.

On “Coming to Get You” and “Final Wing,” Chasny’s more epic ambitions come to the fore. Previously, these two pieces might have ended up as 15-minute mind-fucks; here, they get design, dynamics and drama. They peak gradually rather than all at once. Spread over eight minutes, “Final Wing” never loses its snaking, repetitive pulse of guitar and Wurlitzer, relying instead on Chasny’s vocals, which are held in reserve for nearly half of the piece’s duration. By the time they enter, one is already hypnotized, and their Icarus-like message of lament finds ready ears.

By Matthew Wuethrich

Other Reviews of Six Organs of Admittance

Six Organs of Admittance

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The Manifestation

School of the Flower

The Sun Awakens

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Luminous Night

Asleep on the Floodplain

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