Release Date: Feb 17, 2015
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
The only constant in Ben Chasny's longstanding Six Organs of Admittance project is change. Since 1998 he has engaged in composing, playing, improvising, and recording based on whatever aesthetic or philosophic principles appeal to him regardless of genre. More often than not, his records have existed between rather than within them, though there has always been a thread that marked a unique, if mercurial, signifier woven throughout to connect them.
Ben Chasny has always been an unsettled artist. In his work as Six Organs of Admittance, he refuses to stay in one place for long, darting between folk, rock, psych, and noise from album to album and song to song. But Hexadic is his first record that actually sounds unsettling. His guitar playing is desperate and cutting—a fiery, jagged rip that recalls Japanese air-piercers like Keiji Haino and KK Null.
For his first record as Six Organs of Admittance in three years, Ben Chasny came up with a whole new compositional system, called Hexadic, as a way to dig himself out of a creative rut. Think of it as a kind of twist on Brian Eno's Oblique Strategy cards, an aleatoric — or chance-based — approach to songwriting.Every detail of every song, from the notes played to how often they were played to the lyrics themselves, was determined by Chasny's system. While most of the composing was left up to chance, the decision to play the songs with an electric guitar was all Chasny, as he thought the songs leant themselves better to a "rock" format.
Ben Chasny’s prolific output could lead to the (incorrect) impression that much of his work is created without much in the way of thought. His music with Six Organs Of Admittance over recent years might well feel impulsive and primal, but there’s usually a process behind it. Intriguingly, Hexadic is an album that takes the thought process away from Chasny a little, in compositional terms at least.
When I’ve got a hangover, I like to listen to abrasive music. Something with a bit of unease. It’s a litmus test for how the rest of my day will go. It will either force me to get up and move past my self-inflicted malady, or drive me further towards the dark corners of the house. Time-worn ….
There’s some serious method to the madness of this new record from Ben Chasny, his first under the Six Organs of Admittance banner since 2012’s Ascent. The usually prolific guitarist has spent the past few years devising a compositional process called ‘the Hexadic System’, which involves drawing from playing cards to allow chance to determine elements like tuning, tonal intensity and even lyrics in songs. Chasny has applied the approach here and the exam question seems to be whether it can produce serendipitously compelling music.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. From the start, there is something a bit off about Hexadic--the newest album by the scarily prolific Ben Chasny, alias Six Organs of Admittance. It might be the lack of discernible time signatures, or the myriad moments of uneven syncopation, or just the absence of basic song structure. Do a little digging, and you'll discover that Hexadic is the product of years of (admittedly impressive) theoretical experimentation by Chasny.
Followers of Ben Chasny will have noticed that the usually prolific guitarist has been quiet of late. Hexadisc marks not only Chasny’s first new material since 2012’s Ascent, but also the introduction of a new system of composition; he’s spent the last few years developing it for use, composing 30 songs, nine of which are here. The system uses a deck of playing cards (Drag City will be producing a deck specially designed by Chasny) that, when drawn, determine aspects of the composition (tuning, tonal variations, etc).
Over the years, I’ve explored a number of albums based in the free jazz and/or noise categories, listening to artists whose want of freedom from structure has often manifested itself as cacophonous abstractions via any number of instrumental means. No rules; no order. Such anarchic tendencies seem to contradict the whole notion of creation, that simply acting in the cause for deconstruction might undermine the whole process of making.
The proliferation of digital recording and file sharing, as well as the tremendous expansion of music blogs in the last fifteen years has expanded the reach of experimental, psychedelic, and improvisational music tremendously. If someone wanted to hear or make music that sounded like a cat trapped in a dryer and amplified to the point of total cacophony 15 years ago, your options were pretty limited. Such music existed of course, but it was the prevue of specialty labels, small isolated scenes, and obscure corners of the record store labeled ‘avant-garde’.
Hexadic is Ben Chasny’s most blistering and abrasively feed-back shocked piece of work in some time, its nine compositions paced at a meditative tempo, but amped into white noise intensity. Comets on Fire’s Noel Von Harmonson adds abstract, chaotic drum fills to some cuts and two bassists — Rob Fisk of Badgerlore and Charlie Saufley of Assemble Head of Sunburst Sound — put ponderous weight beneath others. But this is mostly Chasny’s show, a guitar tour de force in volume, ferocity and, occasionally, lyricism.
In the years since Ben Chasny's 1998 self-titled debut as Six Organs Of Admittance – released in an initial pressing of just 400 copies, hand-painted and hand-stamped by Chasny himself – the California native has established himself as something of a psych-folk icon. This is a result of both his prodigious output – well over a dozen records in 17 years – and the enduring eclecticism of his approach. The atmosphere is consistent: foggy, meditative, vaguely conspiratorial – but the musical details are always changing: harsh drones on 2002's Dark Noontide, somber classical guitars on 2004's For Octavio Paz, acid-drenched psych shredding on 2012's Ascent (made with Chasny's former band mates in Comets On Fire).