Six Organs of Admittance School of the Flower

[Drag City; 2005]

Styles: psychedelic folk, mystic mountain hop
Others: Simon Finn, Devendra Barnhart, Pharaoh Sanders

It's nice to see career labels like Chicago's Drag City Records. It's been over a decade since I first came across the label, trying to understand this 'indie rock' stuff. After stumbling upon Royal Trux, my love for the label began and hasn't waned one bit. It's now 2005 and we see Drag City branching out of its traditional indie rock confines. Not only did they recently sign the excellent PG Six from Brooklyn, but they released the latest from psych-folk mainstay Six Organs of Admittance. The ever-prolific Ben Chasny has been releasing music continuously over the last few years, but this proper follow-up to Compathia is much anticipated, especially after hearing that drummer wunderkind Chris Corsano would be joining Chasny to some extent on this release.

Maybe due to a somewhat larger recording budget or simply in need of change, School of the Flower finds Chasny focusing on melodies and atmosphere more so than on previous releases, which were sometimes hidden in noise, drone, or occasionally a meandering lack of direction. Eight tracks of acoustic jams is certainly nothing new for Six Organs fans, but this album discerns itself from previous releases by having a more relaxed feel and a cleaner sound.

But it's the intricate guitar work that ultimately characterizes the album. "Words for Two" and "Procession Of Cherry Blossom Spirits" both feature much more proficient guitars than on previous releases. Chasny's sense of atmosphere works incredibly well on this release where all of his strengths mesh together. On "Home," his voice is raised to a slight falsetto and is eerily reminiscent of a psychedelic Elliott Smith. "Lisboa" closes the album in a simple fashion, with a beautiful guitar melody that recalls Nick Drake's classic Pink Moon.

School of the Flower might just be Six Organs' finest release thus far. Sure, it would've been nice to hear more of a collaboration with Corsano (he starts the album off with his trademark drum swirl on "Eight Cognition / All You've Left," but after about 45 seconds the guitar kicks in and Corsano is virtually absent for most of the album, returning only for the extended jam that closes the title track), but the album still manages to capture Chasny at his finest. He reins in some of his rougher edges, offering listeners a more streamlined sound. This is a welcome step in the right direction for Six Organs and the excellent Drag City label.

1. Eighth Cogaition / All You've Left
2. Words For Two
3. Saint Cloud
4. Procession Of Chevy Blossom Spirits
5. Home
6. School Of The Flower
7. Thicken Than A Smokey
8. Lisboa