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Six Organs of Admittance: The Sun Awakens

July 16, 2011

Roll: 4-5-9
Album: Six Organs of Admittance, The Sun Awakens

I used to spend a lot of time at a record store called Black Ball Records. Most of the year I was on the dole after getting turfed from my job due to a nervous breakdown, was spent sitting on the green chair meant for their listening station. I didn’t listen to music in the green chair, I just listened to the owners Jack and Andrew and they listened to me. Mostly they listened to me whinge about my untenable domestic situation. In exchange for their counseling services, I bought a lot of records.

None of them were by Six Organs of Admittance.

This was around 2001 when I was mostly listening to Swans and, for some reason, lots of Gatecrasher trance compilations. Meanwhile Andrew was listening to actually trance-inducing lo-fi noise/psyche that I didn’t understand at all. It was plinkity-plunkity hippy shit that meandered annoyingly without going anywhere and, as far as I was concerned, took no talent to play. I still maintain that this might have been the case with some of those Tower Recordings cassettes. The only record Andrew and I could agree on was Love by The Cult. Any attempts he made to get me into Ben Chasny and Six Organs fell on deaf ears.

Which is rather curious considering the massive influence Chasny has been on my own music since about 2005 or 2006, around when The Sun Awakens came out. Curiouser still, I actually hadn’t listened to this album until 2009 where upon I was shocked to discover I’d subconsciously been trying to emulate every single note of it for the last two years. I think I couldn’t be bothered to pick up a guitar for weeks afterwards. What was the point of trying to top perfection?

Heck, even Chasny himself hasn’t topped it (though 2011’s Asleep on the Floodplain comes pretty close).

For anyone even vaguely interested in psychedelic music and looking for a place to start in the Six Organs catalogue, there isn’t a better place to start than The Sun Awakens. It highlights everything Chasny does well from intricate East-meets-West finger-picking to spacious drones to  fuzzy guitar freak-outs and wild percussion.

The songs themselves are surprisingly catchy, tightly arranged without meandering too far yet remaining free-spirited as a coyote in the desert. It’s a masterful blend of craftsmanship and creativity that artists trading in this style of music are often unable to balance.

Worth the price of admission alone is the epic closer, “River of Transfiguration”. As the admittedly pretentious title suggests, it’s a full 24-minutes of feedback, droning organ , Middle Eastern wind instruments, god-sized reverb, gongs, bells and etherial vocal chants flowing and transforming like the Nile.

Looking back, it makes sense why this kind of thing didn’t appeal to me in the green chair days. I wasn’t in control of my own life—at least not on an emotional level—and the desire for structure was reflected in my listening choices. The rigid, pile-driving plod of Swans, the formulaic ootz-ootz-ootz of trance anthems, the sterile 4/4 post-punk of Ladytron and Interpol were about all I could handle. Current noodling psyche favourites of mine such as Pelt, or anyone making as much as a sideways glance at a wah-wah pedal or a tamboura, gave me auditory vertigo. Since I never knew what was waiting for me when I went home from the record store, I at least wanted my music to be safe and predictable. I’m pretty sure Swans never made out with my friend’s roommate then blamed me for it.

Of course, if I hadn’t been listening to such rigid music maybe I’d have been open to wild ideas like leaving that relationship. Then I wouldn’t have needed those counseling sessions in the green chair and I might not have found out about Six Organs of Admittance. So it wasn’t all for nothing.

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