Simbioza antigravitacije i gitare.
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Six Organs mainstay Ben Chasny has become one of the high shamen of the US psychedelic underground, disseminating his hairy vision between at least three bands and a couple of genres over the past decade. His umpteenth album begins with a sonic white-out called Waswasa – a thrilling myocardial infarction of guitar more in keeping with another of his bands, Comets on Fire, who are, in fact, on board here. How Chasny tells his sprawling, incandescent guitar solos apart, we may never know; this is an album for frenziedly colouring outside the lines. But there is calm, too, as Chasny reverts to his acoustic instincts for Your Ghost. - Kitty Empire
Ben Chasny is one of those dudes that you can’t picture without a guitar in his hands. Whether he’s ripping apart a roaring electric solo or strumming out a fireside drone, the notes seem to ripple out of his fingers organically. Chasny uses that natural power to propel a handful of projects, most notably the noisy psychedelia of Comets on Fire and droning folk outfit Six Organs of Admittance. Now that the former has been on hiatus for about four years, Ascent proves that he can fit those electric riffs in seamlessly with the latter’s ritual depth.
While Chasny’s recent work under the Six Organs heading has tended towards introspective, isolated territory, to say that Ascent is entirely new territory would be misleading. He’s never been afraid to take listeners out of their woodsy comfort zones and challenge them with bursts of feedback or endless ripples of mantra-like themes. Tracks like “Even if You Knew”, however, take their raga single-mindedness from a new place, relying on continuously spiraling guitar solos and shuddering rhythms. There’s something almost Doors-y to the track, with Chasny’s mystic lyricism now couched in more familiar tropes. Nothing quite matches the burning garage intensity of opener “Waswasa”, a five-minute guitar solo with occasional breaks for haunted vocals.
“Your Ghost” proves that Chasny isn’t turning his back on the tender stuff, either. “I was your friend, I was your light, I was your ghost,” he coos over a descending staircase of chords. “They Called You Near” similarly relies on the acoustic, a trilling, Eastern guitar riff anchoring a wafting pulse. The unifying factors between these glimpses of the recent Six Organs of Admittance past and the Comets on Fire-leaning electric guitar riffage is the primacy of the guitar, a compelling core.
Even when Chasny closes out the album a little silly with “Visions (From Io)” — intently whispering lines like “satanic rockets have launched” — the starlit scrawls of guitar make the entire thing fall into place. The track combines lilting elegance and fret-burning fervor, transporting the listener to a new plane where guitars ring free — much like Ascent as a whole. - Adam Kivel
Ascent picks up on a project that has been shelved for a decade, ever since Ben Chasny toured with Comets on Fire, with Ethan Miller, Ben Flashman, Noel von Harmonson and Utrillo Kushner backing him up in a wholly louder, more electrified way than most people would have expected from Six Organs of Admittance. There was talk of an album, but instead Chasny joined Comets on Fire. Over the next decade, Chasny continued his droney, dreamy, forays into tripped-out, six-stringed folk, sometimes acoustically, sometimes plugged in, but the idea of a molten, pedal-screaming, psychedelically overdriven Six Organs was put away. Comets on Fire itself went on hiatus. Miller focused on Howlin’ Rain. Von Harmonson toured with Sic Alps. Kushner put out a couple of solo records. Chasny joined Rangda, and while he played a few of his Comets/Six Organs songs on tour, but it seemed unlikely that anything else would ever happen with them.
Then last year, schedules lined up and Chasny, Miller and von Harmsonson found themselves in a studio together for the first time since Comets on Fire’s Avatar. It had been five years since they had even played a show together. Chasny dug out older material — “Even If You Knew” dates from that 2002 tour with Comets, sprawling “Close to the Sky” was on 2003’s Compathia and “A Thousand Birds” has been a live staple for years — and the band banged out some new ones. The result is surprisingly fluid, given the lay-off. You don’t have the sense, at all, of people blowing the dust off these tunes.
This iteration of Six Organs isn’t identical to Comets on Fire. For one thing, Harmonson has switched from Echoplex to guitar, eliminating one of the more distinctive, anarchic elements of that band’s sound. For another, Chasny, rather than Miller, does most of the solo work, so there’s an Eastern edge to even the most flipped out shredderies, like on “Wawasa.” You can hear a bit of Chasny’s time in Rangda in this new track, which starts out the album, its freight-train riff bent in interesting, non-western tonalities, like The Yardbirds if they’d discovered raga before the blues. “Even If You Knew” is the other monster track here, a thunderous bass riff supporting filigreed frenzies of guitar, the dreamy, drifty delicacy of Chasny’s voice floating on a roiling, throbbing overload of ’60s psych.
Yet it’s not all about hot-wiring Chasny’s folk melodies, revving the engines and driving off in a squeal of rubber and smoke. Even the tracks that sound most like latter day Six Organs — “Close to the Sky” for instance — can expand and erupt dramatically in this new configuration. A long dreamy opening — just bass and drums to frame Chasny’s voice — catches fire mid-track in slow-shifting, distortion-altered guitar soloing, a kind of Neil Young-ish controlled frenzy. “Solar Ascent” starts in utter tranquility, a softly-rounded, reverberant guitar line leading, little squalls and twangs and cymbal rolls flitting around it. A massive distorted guitar comes in near the end, adding dissonance but never chaos. This is a very orderly freak-out, far more structured than Comets on Fire. In a recent Uncut interview, Chasny drew a distinction between the two bands that makes a lot of sense. “In Comets, there was a thrust toward excess in all parts,” he said. “In Six Organs, there is an attempt to make a solid foundation on top of which to build that excess.” - Jennifer Kelly