SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE
Sitting down to write about last week’s Six Organs of Admittance show at The Crocodile in Seattle, I tuned into an episode of Ancient Aliens as inspiration. For nearly 15 years, Six Organs has primarily existed as a solo project for Ben Chasny, a versatile musician capable of capturing any style of music that his hands desire. Meanwhile, he has continued to find time to collaborate with such artists as Will Oldham (aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy), Current 93, and Sir Richard Bishop of Sun City Girls, just to name a few. The new Six Organs album, Ascent, is a multi-layered psychedelic explosion of wailing screams from outer space. Featuring his band mates from Comets on Fire, the record operates as a reunion for the entire gang from the Bay Area heavy psych outfit. By all accounts, Ascent is pretty much a Comets release–their first since 2006‘s Avatar. If you favor the sounds of layered guitar solos, this is gonna be a hit for you. It lacks the more quaint acoustic directions of a typical Six Organs neo-folk recording, but makes up for it in complete chaos of wah wah-infused guitar screams, layering each track like a Jackson Pollock painting. Hopefully, this helps to paint it’s own picture about what would take place at their live show.
I got to the venue around ten o’clock, just in time to see Master Musicans of Bukkake. Sadly, the very talented and good looking Brad Mowen, drummer/singer of The Masters, is currently touring through Europe with a DC stoner metal band. His shoes were nicely filled by the lovely Rabia Shaheen Qazi, vocalist for Rose Windows, another Seattle act that also consists of over a half-dozen members. As they came out onto the tapestry covered stage draped in Middle Eastern shemagh-style head wraps, I saw a vision of the three wise men at the birth of Jesus. Flooding the crowd with smoke-machine fog and bright purple lights, they delivered a mystical set of droney psychedelic Fuzz rock. The band closed their set with a screaming rendition of Roxy Music’s “Ladytron,” which was a personal highlight for me that really demonstrated how great the Masters could be.
Six Organs casually followed at around 10:45 or so. Joining Chasny was the the rhythm section of Comets on Fire drummer, Utrillo Kushner and past Six Organs live guitarist, Andrew Mitchell on bass . A second guitar was manned by Comets echoplex and electronics operator, Noel von Harmonson, who appears to have, at least temporarily, retired from his duties with San Francisco garage rock unit and fellow Drag City label mates, Sic Alps. Although he is featured on the Ascent album, Comets on Fire frontman, Ethan Miller, did not make an appearance at the show, due to the fact that his band Howling Rain is on a tour of their own right now.
The quartet kicked off their set with a heavy bang; three guitars screaming together in a tailspin, layering and weaving in and out of each other like the many heads of a hydra. I found myself half drunk and tired, closing my eyes and clinging onto the beast for a psychedelic ride through the gateway to outer space.
I looked into the crowd of aging hipsters holding on to every scale, like the holy ghost had caught them by surprise on Easter Sunday. Some were carelessly waving their arms around, either from the booze, weed, or possibly even acid. Who knows? It’s always entertaining watching a room full of middle-aged white men dance. As much as the music move’s their souls, their bodies still manage to roam with a complete absence of rhythm. I’m pretty sure that hippies would dance to the sound of shit hitting a bowl if they thought that there was a chance that anybody was watching.
It didn’t take long before Chasny began to fall under his own spell, flailing about much like birds of the amazon do in mating rituals. He maintained this intensity throughout most of the show, chopping away at his Fender and recklessly thrashing his body on stage. The band aggressively tore through tracks from the new release while detouring through improvised jams of pure sonic chaos. Even in Six Organs‘ electric form, Ben Chasny still manages to hit all those strange finger plucks and pulls, very much in the vein of steel-string acoustic pioneer, Robbie Basho. He just has a way of mastering his instrument, maintaining an experimental approach, while adapting effortlessly.
I really wanted to ask Ben Chasny who was the more interesting to collaborate with, Rangda bandmate, Sir Richard Bishop, or David Tibet of Current 93, but my girlfriend and I were beginning to fade. We had a long drive back to Roslyn ahead of us, so we drifted into the night and hit the highway home around 11:30 or so. The question is still waiting to be asked. I also found myself wondering how some kid from Humbolt County (aka: hillside pot harvest hippie capital of the world) ever began working with these hardcore dark poets. It makes me think that those huge trees of the redwoods must hold secrets of their own, much in the same way that the banks of the Green River do here in the Northwest.