Of the instrumental (or quasi-instrumental) outfits with which I've spent time this year—Blues Control, Shawn Lee, Chrome Canyon, etc.—the latest offering from Six Organs of Admittance rocks the hardest. Clearly, band leader Ben Chasny was on fire when he made this thing.
The guitars slash and burn while the bass and drums rumble like thunder. No doubt you've heard louder music, but it isn't always played with this much finesse, since Chasny's stuff isn't sludgy, but swift and even a little funky, at least on opening track "Waswasa," which comes on like a turbo-charged raga jam from peak-era Allman Brothers (sans Gregg on vocals).
Check out the 2002 Holy Mountain original here. It's quite lovely.
Though Chasny sings on a few songs, like "Even If You Knew," which recalls Loop, and "They Called You Near," which features sitar (or guitar-playing with a pronounced Eastern feel), the record is at its best when the gents just cut loose and play—I felt the same way about the Lumerians when I caught them at LoFi last month—but I'm okay with Chasny's soft and gentle Nilsson-esque croon, which provides a contrast with his muscular playing (and now I'm reminded of the title of that improvisational Frank Zappa series: Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar).
As Six Organs, the singer-guitarist has released so much music over the past several years that it's hard to figure out where Ascent falls in his discography. Near as I can tell, it's his 13th full-length, not counting split LPs and CD-only releases, most on Drag City or Holy Mountain. He recorded it with Ethan Miller (Howlin Rain) and Noel Von Harmonson (Sic Alps), who will—in some configuration or another—be touring with him this fall. When Uncut recently asked him about Comets, he explained that they were on hiatus and never officially broke up.
Since the album was in gestation for a decade as the players moved around the country—Chasny lived in Seattle for spell—and worked on other projects, it combines new material with reworkings of Dark Noontide's "A Thousand Birds" and Compathia's "Close to the Sky." I wish all of it rocked as hard as "Waswasa," but I suspect that Comets fans will appreciate Chasny's return to a more fiery form.
Dave Segal first wrote about "Waswasa" in this post.
Ascent is out now on Drag City. Six Organs of Admittance plays the Crocodile with Master Musicians of Bukkake and Low Hums on Oct 3 ($12 adv, all ages).