Six Organs of Admittance
Ben Chasny discusses his new album and musical strategy
by John Noyd
It is helpful to have an open mind when encountering Six Organs of Admittance’s driving force, guitar-strategist Ben Chasny. Through a career that is as prolific as it is eclectic, Chasny’s teen-age folk roots carried him through a labyrinth of styles, from hyperbolic-baroque to psychedelic wrecking-balls gnarled in cosmic jazz. From Brit-folk dream-weaver Nick Drake to free-jazz action-guitarist Rudolph Grey his influences tend towards the daring and his ability to synthesize these experimental elements into intriguing treats is the cornerstone of his revered standing among the adventurous. A restless spirit through and through Chasny has written for underground films and audiobooks, banded together with like-minded players from sonic noise-makers Comets on Fire to the recent jangle-folk poets The New Bums and forged a fondness for left-hand turns and abstract catastrophes into a solid body of trail-blazing amplified six-string bewilderment.
When reviewing his musical wanderlust in a phone conversation, a modest Chasny admitted to MAXIMUM INK he feels super-lucky to have been granted a life that nurtures his curiosity as well as provide him with so many talented friends. Although he also admitted his latest experiment became a Six Organs project somewhat by default when some of his friends declined to answer the emails he sent discussing his musical theories regarding computation science, game theory and paradigm shifts. Others of course were intrigued. Setting a deadline to transform his Hexadic pre-compositions into recorded songs, proactive procrastinator Chasny tackled this challenge enlisting drummer Noel Von Harmononson as what he called the signal-giver, and bassists Rob Fisk and Charlie Saufley. A behemoth work, the resulting whale-swallowing album will not surprise long-time fans who appreciate Chasny’s meta tendencies, but still manages to open up new abstract territories.
Citing the Surrealist parlor games of unmediated chance from the twenties as inspiration, Chasny invented a means to randomly assign tonal fields and intervals using an ordinary deck of playing cards to outline what notes were fair game and in what time span they could be played. As the cards were dealt into six sections he called it the Hexadic System and assembled thirty or so song ideas over several years. Chasny refers to the system as a contemplative exercise that blossoms under scrutiny and takes on different lives depending on the individual player. When asked whether the System helped break writer’s block he said he’s never really had a problem creating new music, but was looking to shake things up and discover combinations a conscious approach would never have unveiled.
Whereas the system’s guiding rules still allowed for major interpretation, the Hexadic album employs the initial event as a compositional launch-pad that could be ridden in any number of directions. While his original demos were acoustic in nature Chasny was interested in swinging these sounds into rawer, more electric realms. Chasny clarifies, “this recording was as much about pushing things out of their comfort zone as writing charts based on a game.” The resulting effort is a spiraling ride through amorphous textures, deep-sixing roaring distortion inside intergalactic atmospheres; unpredictable and challenging, but oddly alluring and endless fascinating.
Touring the country to bring, “Hexadic,” on stage, Chasny plans to deliver a live version of the studio recording along with songs from, “Ascent,” but isn’t interested in bringing out the playing cards for live demonstrations. The finished product, he emphasizes, came from concerted interpretations of his acoustic demos. Crediting each player for their contributions Chasny is very happy with the results and is eager to work the material live. Never one to rest on their laurels, the barrier-breaking Six Organs of Admittance play Madison’s The Frequency April 22nd.(2392) Page Views Six Organs of Admittance Online:
Six Organs of Admittance
CD: Hexadic Record Label: Drag City
• Purchase Hexadic on Amazon
• Download Hexadic on Amazon