Having just finished Peter Matthiessen’s book about (among other things) Nepal, “The Snow Leopard”, it’s been quite nice these past few days to perceive cold and snow as a path to spiritual revelation as much as a physical ordeal. Of course, crawling down the A10 on the Number 76 yesterday morning pretty effectively demolished the romance.

Having just finished Peter Matthiessen’s book about (among other things) Nepal, “The Snow Leopard”, it’s been quite nice these past few days to perceive cold and snow as a path to spiritual revelation as much as a physical ordeal. Of course, crawling down the A10 on the Number 76 yesterday morning pretty effectively demolished the romance.

But still, listening to the new Six Organs Of Admittance album, “Asleep On The Floodplain” as I travelled was a help, a good soundtrack to poeticise what, for London at least, felt like extreme weather. The arrival of this one came as a surprise, since it’s seemed like Ben Chasny has been concentrating on Rangda this year, and on a forthcoming project, 200 Years, with his wife Elisa Ambrogio from Magik Markers.

“Asleep…” feels very much like a counterpoint to the full-throttle heroic jams of Rangda; a very intimate, fireside record, with Chasny predominantly working on an acoustic rather than electric guitar. From the opening “Above A Desert I’ve Never Seen”, you’re pushed into very close proximity to the player, with Chasny as usual making the tactile action of hand on strings, squeaks and all, a critical part of his technique.

Not much else gets in the way. Sometimes, Chasny sings, occasionally duets with himself. The odd analogue synth buzzes discreetly in, but mostly he’s backed by what sounds like a harmonium, apparently looped up into a reverberant drone; “Brilliant Blue Sea Between Us” is a startlingly beautiful wash of deep tones and intricate guitar studies.

Chasny, I think, has reached that point in his career where it’d be easy to take his records for granted: the sheer number of them now, the general consistency, and the relatively small stylistic evolutions, can make it hard to pick out highlights. It may be its wintry suitability for journeys this week, but “Asleep…” is starting to feel like it may become one of my favourites, up there with “For Octavio Paz” and “School Of The Flower”, and almost certainly stronger than the last one, “Luminous Night”.

The highlight, at the moment, is the longest track, “S/word And Leviathan”, a giant invocation that’s spiritual kin to “River Of Transfiguration” on “The Sun Awakens”, another favourite. “S/word And Leviathan” is built around a tinny string-scrabble that could conceivably be a Japan Banjo; I only know of these from the Flower-Corsano records, and the sound Chasny has here doesn’t have the distorted splutter of what Mick Flower plays. Any enlightenment welcome.

Anyhow, over 11 minutes, Chasny loops and layers the sound, adds distant ritual chants, drops in a characteristically fragile vocal quite late on, and eventually cuts a swathe through the whole transporting piece with a stunned electric guitar solo. It’s brutal, but still manages to be in keeping with the crisp, close, meditative sound of the album as a whole.

I’ve steered clear of the usual acid-folk references here, by the way; it feels like Chasny’s worked his way to a place where namedrops of Peter Walker and so on are no longer so relevant. That said, in transit this morning, I followed up “Asleep On The Floodplain” by playing, for the first time in ages, the Seventh Sons album on ESP Disk, and that worked really well.

If you haven’t seen Rangda yet, by the way, really try and check them out; one of the best live shows I’ve seen this year. The London gig clashes with the Wooden Shjips/Howlin Rain/Moon Duo summit, unfortunately, but here are the forthcoming dates; Leeds, especially, should be amazing.

07/12/10 London, UK @ The Luminaire w/Borbetomagus, Heather Leigh, Thomas Ankersmit

08/12/10 Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club w/Emeralds & Howling Rain

09/12/10 Manchester, UK @ Islington Mill w/Howling Rain