Six Organs Of Admittance: “RTZ”

Another follow-up on a request this morning: a grapple with the great reverberant sprawl of “RTZ”, two CDs of Six Organs Of Admittance’s early work and marginalia.

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Another follow-up on a request this morning: a grapple with the great reverberant sprawl of “RTZ”, two CDs of Six Organs Of Admittance’s early work and marginalia.

It is, as you might expect if you’ve come across Ben Chasny’s work before, a pretty heady and engrossing couple of hours. One of the interesting things about it, it occurs today, is how effectively Chasny created and focused his own sound more or less from the start of his solo career. You get the sense that the Six Organs project is constantly evolving, occasionally digressing (most notably, I suppose, on “For Octavio Paz” and “School Of The Flower”), but generally faithful to a few sonic essentials: brackish, cyclical fingerpicked guitar that sometimes locks into meditative drone, sometimes becomes a scrabbling raga blizzard; distant muttered incantations; an imprecise but pervasive air of hovering spiritual intensity.

CD2 here is basically Chasny’s 1999 album, “Nightly Trembling” (originally released in an edition of 33 copies, apparently), which is as good an introduction to Six Organs Of Admittance as anything. I was just looking at something I wrote a few years back, which compared his style to John Fahey, but Chasny’s style is somehow looser, sketchier but simultaneously more feverishly complex than more obvious Fahey disciples like Jack Rose.

A few months ago, I went on something of a Peter Walker jag, and came across a quote from Chasny which identified Walker as one of his key formative influences. Listening to the billowing, dense pieces on “Rainy Day Raga” next to phases of “Redefinition Of Being” here, that makes total sense.

Other Chasny albums might be more accessible than this comp (not least the most recent, “Shelter From The Ash”), but it still works perfectly as a primer for his singular, devotional investigations into the possibilities of guitar music; where folk-derived picking becomes somewhat unanchored and less earthly, and shoots off on a psychedelic path toward the transcendent. By the end of “Nightly Trembling”, he’s plugged in and creating an electric firestorm that foreshadows his involvement in Comets On Fire (and Ethan Miller’s comparable jam at the end of the subsequent Six Organs album, “Compathia”).

All good stuff here, anyway, with a bunch of rare sides (from splits with Charalambides and the Vibracathedral Orchestra among other things) that help fans like me feel like more of a completist. Chasny, incidentally, recently hooked me up with a subterranean fellow traveller called Joshua Burkett who sent me a care package of his stuff last week. Early investigations bode very well, and I’ll write something on him soon too, I promise.


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