You know that feeling at the end of the day, when you’ve done all you need to do? You know that feeling when you just have a chance to kick back and unwind with some great sounds, free from all extraneous hassle and interference, possibly with a glass of something pleasant? You know that feeling when the only thing that will scratch that itch for you is a spaghetti western psychedelic guitarfest LP? worried you’re the last person on your street to own a spaghetti western psychedelic guitarfest LP? Worried that if you choose the wrong spaghetti western psychedelic guitarfest LP your neighbours will mock you mercilessly and you’ll end up as a social pariah? well worry no more gentle reader, 1537 is here.
When I’m in that mood I reach for Six Organs of Admittance The Sun Awakens from 2006. I bought this after reading a good review (although obviously not half as good as the one you’re forcing yourself to read right now) in a magazine and deciding that there was room in my life and on my shelf for a spaghetti western psychedelic experience. It also got bought because Six Organs of Admittance is basically Ben Chasny and friends and I had read an awful lot of very good stuff about his other band Comets On Fire, mostly by Julian Cope.
Straight off the bat I’ll say that Ben Chasny is a brilliant guitar player, not flash, not showy, in fact he’s quite spare at times, but he just plays all the right notes, however many, or few that are necessary at any given time. He really is one of my favourites. You can tell that The Sun Awakens is a proper work of art from its cool lettering and dramatic cover art on in. Even the structure of the LP is interesting too with six tracks on Side 1, balanced with the 23:50 ‘River of Transfiguration’ which makes up Side 2. I know, 23:50.
The first side is book-ended by ‘Torn By Wolves’ and ‘Wolves’ Pup’, two gently picked and lyrically plucked pieces which set and end a reflective tone for the record. ‘Bless Your Blood’ has a hazy, slightly sickly, mostly acoustic, first-thing-in-the-morning feel to it, the oddly distorted vocals meaning that I always just listen to the sound of it, rather than the words; I must have listened to this LP countless dozens of times and apart from the phrase ‘Bless your blood’ I couldn’t tell you another word of the lyrics, odd.
‘Black Wall’ deserves a paragraph all of its’ own, there is an urgency and a suppressed energy throughout as Ben Chasny’s slightly falsetto vocals are underlined by gentle squalls of feedback, seemingly happening separately to the main acoustic framework of the song and then about 3:52 in, he just unleashes my current favourite guitar solo; a wonderful squall of noise, which just crashes in overhead like an electrical storm, sweeping the rest of the song with it, cashing in on the sense of menace it previously evoked. It really is jaw-droppingly good. What I particularly dig is the fact that to my tired old ears he sounds like absolutely no-one else out there.
‘The Desert Is A Circle’ (note to self: don’t fall for the whole ‘desert’ ‘dessert’ typo you always do) is a fabulous alternative, campfire hoe-down, anyone who is not seeing visions of grizzled psychonaut cowboys at this point chewing on hallucinogenic cacti is clearly just not paying attention. ‘Attar’ takes a deviation eastward, remounting the same progressions on an almost processional Indian-sounding beat and once again featuring a monumental guitar freak-out towards the end. Honourary mentions must go to drummers John Connell and Noel Von Harmonson for their sterling contributions throughout too.
‘Rivers of Transformation’ is a hell of a beast. Featuring tone generators aplenty, Al Cisneros (of Sleep fame) on bass, chanting deviants and more ebbing and flowing than, umm, an ebbflow convention, it really does defy description. Starting slowly, ominously so actually, it builds and builds a bit like a very slow motion ‘Black Wall’, there are both moments of harmonious clarity and layers of doubt and shame here, it feels like a pagan sun ritual enacted for your aural delectation in your living room. Sorry that’s a bit inadequate but its the best I can manage tonight.
Six Organs of Admittance have been pretty prolific over the years, I own one other and I’ve listened to bits of other ones and none of them sound like The Sun Awakens. In fact I saw them in August 2007 at Manchester Phoenix Club (a back room in a pub, which no longer exists) along with about 40 other people and they were brilliant, but already sounded nothing like this LP. Ben Chasny close-up was very hyper and tense, being the band botherer I am, I went up, shook his hand and thanked him for the show and The Sun Awakens afterwards, he replied something to the effect that he was keen on that one too but was more keen on chatting about the split single he’d just put out with Om (which is buried deep somewhere in my singles), who I didn’t realise at the time were half of Sleep.
Oh and I did once embarrass myself by asking a lady in a record shop if they had any ‘Sex organs of Admittance’. True story.