Six Organs of Admittance - Ascent

by Andy Brown Rating:7.5 Release Date:2012-08-16

Ben Chasny has been releasing music under the Six Organs of Admittance name since the late-90s and is responsible for some amazingly intricate, experimental and down-right-beautiful psych-folk records. While his Six Organs work often has a wistful, free-roaming yet psychedelic sound, Chasny is certainly no stranger to the nosier, more discordant pastures of experimental music. As a member of Comets on Fire he's contributed his own take on the classic-rock sound to albums like Avatar and he's also gone head-to-head with guitar legend Sir Richard Bishop as part of Rangda.

The first sign that Chasny's latest output would edge towards the nosier/rockier side of his abilities came with the release of the tantalisingly brilliant 'Parson's Blues' single a few months ago, featuring two new tracks with Chasny backed by a full band. On the track 'Mission Abort' in particular, Chasny was clearly enjoying making as much noise as possible. The 7in was released as a stand-alone single but signs were promising for a great new album.

Ascent makes a strong start with the full-on psych-rock instrumental 'Waswasa'. There's a QOTSA-esque riff underpinning Chasny's wild lead-guitar and the whole thing has a barley controlled chaos about it. Already you can see the advantage of a full backing-band (his Comets on Fire band-mates). It's a great piece of psych-rock yet the long, finger-shredding solos won't be to everyone's taste. If you find bands like Lightning Bolt and even Marnie Stern a little too 'busy' then you might find some of Ascent hard to swallow. Thankfully, Ascent is a fairly diverse album and far from the straight 'noise-rock' album some may have been expecting.

'Close to the Sky' slows things down and with its sleigh-bells and sultry, hip-shaking rhythms it's a contender for my favourite track on the album. There's also a massive solo that takes up half the song too. Chasny sings on the majority of the album and while he hasn't got the most distinctive voice in the world his cool, laid-back drawl counterbalances some of his musical excesses quite well. 'They Called You Near' introduces some mesmerising drones to the mix and is one of the album's subtler moments; there's also some intricate, eastern-influenced fret-work here, worthy of Sir Richard Bishop himself.

'Solar Ascent' is a beautifully languid instrumental piece which seems to work perfectly with the cover's depiction of far-away solar systems and strange planets. 'One Thousand Birds' brings the full band back to the fore with pleasingly rock 'n' roll results. This isn't the kind of 'noisy' we found on the Rangda album though, Ascent is a very loose, rhythmic, yet song-based listen. 'Your Ghost' finds Chasny alone with his acoustic for a well-earned breather and an un-expectantly tender moment: "I was your friend, I was your life, I was your ghost"

The calm is shattered by the seven minutes which make up the brilliant 'Even If You Knew'. Guitars sweep, dive and soar over a repetitive, head-nodding bassline to stunning effect as Chasny howls, "Viva memory, viva memory!" It's as thrilling as anything by Comets on Fire and manages a similar balancing act between the experimental and the more traditional. The album slows down one last time for the moon-light stroll of 'Visions (From Lo)'. The lyrics get a little sentimental/soft-rock for my liking here ("it's a dream that keeps me breathing… Do you need a dream to keep you breathing too?") but the music just manages to pull you in regardless.

Ascent is an exciting album and further proof, if it were needed, of Ben Chasny's genius. If you can forgive its occasional excesses than you'll find a challenging, exciting and surprisingly diverse set of songs here and perhaps one of 2012's most refreshing, rock-orientated records.

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