As well as being a mainstay of Psych-Noise stalwarts Comets On Fire, and frequent collaborator with such Experimental artists as Current 93, Ben Chasny is frighteningly prolific in the guise of his solo Folk / Americana project Six Organs of Admittance. Latest album Companion Rises (Drag City) is a shimmering trip through the stars which enriches the soul.
There are many facets to the sound: opener ‘Pacific’, for example’, is a heavy yet ambient synth drift which mimics the sea waves while shooting an electrical current through them: this segues into the ensuing ‘Two Forms Moving’, accompanied by a fiercely-strummed guitar and aboriginal-flavored percussion, that synth growling underfoot with a quirkily played lead adding further dimension. The curious, weighty rhythm of ‘The Scout Is Here’ is fired by solitary, resonant chords and glorious layering of the Dylanesque vocal, providing the sugar of the doughnut with the bitter hit of the coffee…
…or even ‘Black Tea’: a more maudlin, pared-back version of America, its bongos a rippling undertow for near-shamanic chanting, deep strings and occasional loops of warped ambience. It’s an ideal soundtrack for one of those grainy, monochrome home movies where a troubled passenger rides the New York tracks. Similarly, the gentle bedrock of the title track carries an Alt-rock edge while lulling the listener into a journey of cushioned reverie: while the excellent ‘The 101’ completes the album’s second triumvirate with a more rhythmic, uptempo style, again boosted by a powerful electric riff but joined here by a motorised beat and smoking leadwork.
The marriage of power and desolate delicacy reaches triumphal levels in the latter stages. ‘Haunted and Known’s’ low-end acoustic chords, together with its second half of eerie and euphoric synth power are drenched in-depth and reverb, while Chasny’s sweet, layered tones are almost breathless. ‘Mark Yourself’, the album’s dreamy standout offering, sees serious planking of the strings counterbalancing that high vocal, but this time it’s the sea road being traversed as the white horses and wailing of the gulls and gannets is evinced in off-kilter synth and leadwork. The oscillating atmospherics of moving closer ‘Worn Down To The Light’, meanwhile, both bewitch and crush in equal measure, like a slowed and more resounding version of Joy Division‘s ‘Atmosphere’.
Whatever this luscious treat is attempting to embody, the odyssey is steeped in every possible emotion and leaves no dry eye with its eventual passing. It’s sometimes difficult to be so moved by music possessing so much ethereal quality but, a little like it might be to experience Newton Faulkner on quaaludes, Chasny’s skill in giving pathos and musical weight to apparent insouciance ensures there’s no such difficulty here. Moody and mightily impressive.
8 / 10