Six Organs of Admittance Hexadic II

[Drag City; 2015]

Styles: ritual, repetition, reincarnation
Others: Charalambides, Grouper, Jackie-O Motherfucker, Loren Connors

With the invention of his “Hexadic” system of composition, Ben Chasny has sacrificed Six Organs of Admittance to a higher power. The system, introduced earlier this year on his last album, combines minimal process music and occult card-reading tactics to produce specific chords, phrases, timings, and even lyrics, resulting in a songwriting method that pulls forth music from the ether of chaos. Up until now, Chasny has made his claim as one of the most distinctive guitarists in folk music, but the Hexadic method strips Six Organs of Admittance of any individual language whatsoever — these songs were determined by a deck of cards, not Chasny. The first Hexadic installment dealt in freeform structure, stark vocals, and aggressive noise guitar, all violent signifiers of Chasny’s desire to abandon the psychedelic, bluesy voice of Six Organs in favor of the abyss of random chance.

If Six Organs is at rest, however, it is not a quiet sleep: nine months after the debut of this system, Chasny is back with Hexadic II, the bleakest entry in his catalogue yet. Consisting entirely of pieces for acoustic guitar, Hexadic II might feel like a return to form after the interstellar overdrive of Ascent and the Fushitsusha conjuring of Hexadic, but the music here is desolate, uncomplicated, and barely there. Phrases circle themselves endlessly, searching in vain for resolution. Pieces aren’t “arranged” as much as strung about like items of clothing in an empty bedroom. Chasny’s chants are soft, trembling, and monotone, a mere ghost of his fiery incantations on records past. As a suite, Hexadic II does away with the fog and drone that has come to define Six Organs of Admittance, crystallizing a perfect still life of Chasny as a vehicle for music that exists beneath consciousness.

To call these compositions “songs” would be misleading — nothing on this album bears the pleasing structure of a track like “Hold But Let Go” or even the loose sprawl of a jam like “Redefinition of Being.” The pieces on Hexadic II are sparse, insular creations, alike in their patterns but episodic in their execution. Tracks like “Fear Havoc Night” and “Anyone’s Dawn” tumble forward with a dejected sense of rhythm, all speckled guitar notes and sustained falsetto from Chasny. When the music does gain momentum, as on “Exultation Wave” or “Wasp Code,” it only brings more attention to the disturbing undercurrent at work here: sounds arranged by something beyond human. “Arm Their Rows” is a full on Dantesque march, and even if Chasny manages to find some glimmer in the finale of “Poor Guild,” it is only in the most weary, vague way possible.

Despite the void of character that Chasny has constructed for himself with Hexadic II, we somehow still end up meeting Six Organs of Admittance at its core as a project. These grim numbers bear the same obsessions with ritualistic summonings that Chasny has always carried, the deck of cards as symbolic in the Six Organs universe as any elemental force, the cyclical sound patterns a wounded perversion of the mantra-repeating Chasny has built his altar on. In destroying himself, Chasny has unearthed deeper, simpler fundamentals in his craft and, in doing so, breathed new life into his musical voice. With Hexadic II, Six Organs of Admittance is born again.

Links: Six Organs of Admittance - Drag City

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