Music Reviews
Ascent

Six Organs of Admittance Ascent

(101 Distribution) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

Anyone reaching for the mantle of "guitar hero" in 2012, and not fiddling a long piece of plastic with coloured buttons on it, is bound to be an anachronism.  Or so I thought, until I discovered that Six Organs of Admittance, a band I'd been hearing about for 10 years or so but never heard, was fronted by such a man out of time who'd been getting plenty of Indie street cred all the while.  Then I found out that this man, Ben Chasny, also was responsible for the old-school, hammer of the gods riffing on the Comets on Fire album, Blue Cathedral, and it all began to make sense.  Chasny had been actively trying to keep the past alive since he started way back in the late 90s.  What's a guy with brutal chops to do in the era of Kid A and Panda Bear? 

Then again, in these fragmentary times, there’s room for everyone and everything.  Ascent is the latest entry in Chasny’s varied discography (he plays electric AND acoustic!).  From what I’ve Spotified in preparing for this review, Six Organs seems to lean heavily toward the ethereal, so it comes as some surprise when this record kicks off with an aggressive rocker called Waswasa.  Here, Chasny reveals himself to be a guitarist capable of an admirable level of intensity, if not pure technical virtuosity.  Technique for its own sake never interested me much, so I found myself digging the fire he generates on this track.  But I admit I’m surprised to see a guitarist I’d classify as “better than decent” building a career relying mainly on his fingers.  Chasny sings occasionally but with serious limitations; limitations which he is fully aware of, often burying his voice in a haze of reverb and whispers as on the second track, Close to the Sky.  Here, he seems to be shooting for a midway point between Pink Floyd’s moody space-rock and Hendrix’s emotional intensity, and hits his mark fairly effectively.  He lacks Hendrix’s ability to shock with the perfectly unexpected riff and settles into a fairly standard exercise of blues scaling, though he fights the ordinariness with gusto. 

On They Called You Near, he remains firmly rooted in 1968 with a piece of doomy psychedelia which evolves into a Road to Jaipur pseudo-raga, and on Solar Ascent he tilts at modern post-rock with its frequently unfortunate Lento tempos.  Things pick up a little on One Thousand Birds as we are placed firmly in Comets on Fire territory with its thundering bass and mind crushing distortion.  The record continues for a few more songs in the vein already established and ends with something of a whimper rather than a bang on Visons (From Io).

It’s hard to call anything a throwback these days since the past is ever-present in the culture and in Indie music especially.  Unless you like the regularity of digital beats or the cold, almost rigid hodge-podgeism of Animal Collective, this is what’s left to you.  I liked Ascent well enough to recommend it though I’m not going to gush.