Release Date: Feb 22, 2011
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Experimental Rock
Ben Chasny is a fairly established presence at this point, (or at least his Six Organs of Admittance moniker seems to be), so long running diatribes criticizing the mostly monotonous swill that sadly represents a good portion of the folk genre seems unnecessary. But, I’ll dig in, anyway. Folk music sounds very content to be one singular tone with one very generic vocal, resting on a veritable library of Thoreau clichés with mandatorily sprinkled Dylan-isms added for some edge.
Ben Chasny, the hippie guitar luminary behind Six Organs of Admittance, said this to the British magazine Terrascope in 1999 as they were writing a comprehensive feature about him. (It is a must-read for any Six Organs fan.) Around that time, he had just finished his brambly and experimental CD, Dust and Chimes, yet one can hear Chasny’s sentiments about home and nature in all the music he has made since then. It’s a simple and profound statement that also sums up why listeners are so passionate about their childhood bands.
As has become normal, a new Six Organs of Admittance album arrives amidst a flurry of extra-Organic work from Ben Chasny. 2010 saw him release the excoriating False Flag as one third of Rangda with Richard Bishop and Chris Corsano. This year should see the release of two albums by 200 Years, a duo project with Elisa Ambrogio of Magik Markers (one is due on Drag City in the spring, the other is scheduled to appear as part of the Grapefruit subscription record club).
Ben Chasny’s Six Organs of Admittance were, reluctantly or otherwise, fully paid up members of the short lived ‘freak-folk’ movement of the mid-Noughties; what now seems a strange period where a group of musicians across the States, often with little in common other than a love of Sixties folk and psychedelia, came together to form a loose movement, memorialised in the compilation Golden Apples of The Sun. Devendra Banhart curated that CD, and yet as the movement progressed and diluted, the artists involved seemed ever more different. Kyle Field of Little Wings emerged, alongside Joanna Newsom, as the most vivid and lasting songwriter, Espers and Vetiver faded away, while Banhart himself seemed to become a preening caricature of himself.
As selfish as it seems, I sometimes wish that Ben Chasny-- for more than a decade now, the architect of one of America's best-ever psychedelic syndicates, Six Organs of Admittance-- would sit still. Across more than a dozen albums and even more collaborations, Chasny has proven the restless sort who bounces between sounds, structures, and ideas with the curiosity of a precocious teenager. Scrappy meditations for acoustic guitar, epic drone escapades for ensembles, breezy folk-rock ruminations for a full band: Chasny has played it all, sometimes on the same album and oftentimes with mixed results.
San Francisco psych-folkie Ben Chasny is such a noiselessly industrious musician that he often slithers under modern RSS feeds and blog buzz. Despite this anonymity, his guitar playing can be just as mesmeric as his cosmic forebear John Fahey. On this acoustic guitar/harmonium LP, he sticks to the bedchamber and eschews overdubs. The peaks aren’t as emotionally devastating as his studio work, but there’s a hushed desperation here that gradually leaches into your pores.
Transcendental flights of fancy... Ten more transcendental flights of fancy from Ben Chasny, recorded at home and hinging on his virtuosic Fahey-esque guitar while washes of harmonium and the occasional husky murmur add colour and depth. In much the same way as the compositions sound deceptively simple thanks to their effortless grace and fluidity, so the ideas seeping into them – those of thinkers Catherine Keller and Gaston Bachelard – are more complex than you might at first imagine, making ‘Asleep On The Floodplain’ an album whose surface you can lazily drift upon or one into which you can dive as deep as your lungs will allow.
Ben Chasny’s solo venture continues to tackle folk as if the 1970s never ended. Martin Longley 2011 Ben Chasny is the artist otherwise known as Six Organs of Admittance, and the guitar is his principal instrument. Here, with Asleep on the Floodplain (his fifth LP for Drag City), he's in a mostly acoustic frame of mind, wielding an unplugged axe that's invariably so close-mic’d that the listener's head becomes almost trapped inside its sound chamber.
Over the course of his 15 years recording as Six Organs of Admittance, Ben Chasny’s output has morphed in a snaky, somewhat unpredictable manner much like his individual pieces and albums. Veering into drone here, speeding up a little there, approaching folk territory for a second before winding up tightly and then releasing the noise. It all seems like a very organic and unforced way of going about the task of being an artist.
The Psychic Paramount Are you ready for “The Psychic Paramount II”? Have you checked your hydration, nerves, attention span? Been jumping rope, taking your Omega 3? This is instrumental power-trio prog-rock for those who never had time for Rush and find the Mars Volta a bridge to nowhere; it.