Six Organs of Admittance Luminous Night

[Drag City; 2009]

Styles:  acoustic-electro/folk-rock-traditional/drone-noise
Others: Peter Walker, Espers, Doomier Donovan, Organum, Thomas Koner

In the 10+ years that Ben Chasny has been performing and recording under the Six Organs of Admittance moniker, he’s been prolific and ubiquitous, releasing at least two significant pressings a year while managing to appear in Comets on Fire, Badgerlore, August Born, Current 93, and sometimes even Magik Markers. There has rarely been any doubt about Chasny’s prowess or ability to record an impressive album, and Luminous Night, Chasny's sixth full-length for Drag City (if you include the August Born release), does not deviate from that course.

Chasny has engaged in several interviews this year, and his tone in them points to a confidence, a lack of diffidence in his self-analysis. In a Dusted interview, Chasny offers us the salient observation that he believes it's a myth that an artist's work exists on a linear trajectory. He offers instead the metaphor that artistic development radiates in a three-dimensional spoke-like pattern from a core of consistently referenced intent.

Indeed, in this stage of his career, the Six Organs project is evolving in subtle ways while remaining true to Chasny’s original vision of acoustic guitar innovation. Luminous Night is not a wild departure from School of the Flower or Shelter from the Ash, but there is a feeling that Six Organs of Admittance has broken into a new point of reference in production that is in a slightly different direction from earlier releases (check the outro on “Ursa Minor,” for example). It’s as if this record is a saguaro, whereas the older, pre-Drag City stuff, was just a cactus.

This time around, Chasny is clearly interested in writing structured songs with clear lines drawn throughout, with seemingly no concern for the reactions that might ensue from such high production and exacting precision. He exhibits a cool willingness to play music that he likes, and although his influences on this record are largely from the world of electronic music (according to him), the acoustic stylings on this album often border on the Baroque. Along a similar tangent, “River of Heaven” dirges as if it were the backdrop for some scene of a kilted warrior doing epic acts of Scottish heroism. The viola, flute, and tablas combination that shows up in various combinations throughout seems to be key in affecting a Renaissance Fair/Medieval Europe vibe.

However, it would be unfair to focus solely on the folky flute and blue viola, for we would be ignoring the mood-setting electronic pieces that seem to act as segues or bridges between the more obvious "songs." These pieces seem like lesser elements given the strong presence of the more composition-oriented songs, but there is an undeniable beauty and elegance in the electronic pieces, which are slickly executed due to the production of Randall Dunn (Boris, sunn 0))), Earth, Asva). Far from the metal aesthetic to which he's normally accustomed, Dunn expertly captures the depth of Chasny's performances.

The general complaint that might be lodged by fans is that, while Luminous Night seems to be a clear indication of an improving artist, the improvements are marginal. Is it really worth asking whether Six Organs will ever get that much better? Clearly, Chasny has his head on straight, but will there come a moment when Six Organs can blow our minds proper? Maybe that’s asking too much, like wondering whether an athlete who has been at the top of their game for years has room for improvement -- maybe searching for a liner progression is wrong in the first place. Besides, artistic development radiates in a three-dimensional spoke-like pattern from a core, right?

1. Actaeon's Fall (Against the Hounds)
2. Anesthesia
3. Bar-Nasha
4. Cover Your Wounds With The Sky
5. Ursa Minor
6. River of Heaven
7. The Ballad of Charley Harper
8. Enemies Before The Light

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