Six Organs of Admittance UK Tour Underway Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 15th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Starting June 10, Six Organs of Admittance began a UK tour not so much in support of its new album Hexadic (review here) — though it works out that way too — as explaining exactly what it is Ben Chasny (also Comets on Fire) has done with it. This past weekend, in addition to performing later in the day at Supersonic Festival, Chasny conducted a seminar explaining the system of songwriting used in the record’s construction. Opaque to non-instrumentalists, it nonetheless resulted in a heavy psychedelic jazz fusion on the record itself, which Chasny and company continue to herald this week, including at a two-night residency in London.

Info and the complete round of tour dates follow, courtesy of the PR wire:

six organs of admittance

Six Organs Of Admittance UK tour dates

This summer, Ben Chasny’s Six Organs Of Admittance will be in the UK spreading the workings of the Hexadic, the system that underpins his most recent album for Drag City bearing the same name. Most of the dates are performances from the full live band, except for a special workshop as part of Supersonic Festival 2015 in Birmingham, where Chasny will be explaining and demonstrating the Hexadic process to patrons of the adventurous arts event. Further details of Six Organs’ two day residency at Cafe Oto will also soon be revealed. Find the full dates below:

10 June – Antwerp, Trix
13 June – Birmingham, Supersonic Festival (performance 9:30pm & workshop 3pm)
14 June – Manchester, Gullivers
15 June – Bristol, Exchange
16 June – Leeds, Brudenell
17 June – Glasgow, Broadcast
18 June – Newcastle, Cluny
20 June – London, Cafe Oto – two day residency
21 June – London, Cafe Oto – two day residency
22 June – Amsterdam, Paradiso

Two day residency from Ben Chasny – aka Six Organs of Admittance – playing a band show on the first night and solo on the second, and following on from new album ‘Hexadic’, which is based upon Chasny’s intricately devised Hexadic System for music composition.

Taking as much inspiration from ambient textures and noise squall as it does on the fingerpicked acoustic guitar which has formed the bedrock of Chasny’s recorded output, the Six Organs of Admittance sound has expanded to encompass a huge sonic span. Initially starting as a solo endeavour, it has since welcomed a wide array of collaborators both on recordings and in live performances, including the likes of Chris Corsano, Elisa Ambrogio (Magik Markers), and Alex Neilson.

Inspired by explorations in the thought of Ramon Llull, Gaston Bachelard, Heinrich Agrippa and many other theorists in the various schools of combinatorial and image theory, Ben Chasny’s goal was to make a system of his own, addressing the most important form of decision making in his life – the decisions made with his guitar. Aligning the cards with the notes in the guitar’s neck by using the card suits and numbers, The Hexadic System unlocks new potentials in guitar composition, while referencing historical, philosophical and even occult precedents for the Hexadic processes. Not just hard theory, the Hexadic system can be enjoyed as a game, while the text is illustrated with 75 ornately designed charts and diagrams to accompany the process.

Ben Chasny as Six Organs Of Admittance released The Hexadic System LP in February, entirely based on the system outlined above. From it, check out the track ‘Wax Chance’, which frames the intuition-defying process in action at the hands of its creator, and rocks hard to a chance beat. You can pick up a copy at the Drag City webstore, where all the Hexadic System components can also be purchased.…

Six Organs of Admittance, “Wax Chance”

Tags: , , , ,

Six Organs of Admittance, Hexadic: Systems and Games of Chance

Posted in Reviews on April 14th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

six organs of admittance hexadic

There are two ways by which a project like Six Organs of Admittance‘s Hexadic comes about: Genius and boredom. I suspect that for Ben Chasny, who has spearheaded the band since its incarnation before the turn of the century, it was some working combination of the two that drove him to create the “Hexadic System,” which uses playing cards in some obscure process to construct various elements of songwriting, piecing material together, picking notes and so forth. Set to be released as part of a decade-long association with Drag City as a bundle with a 115-page book explaining the system and a custom-designed deck of playing cards presumably for use by anyone who might want to give it a shot on their own, it is a challenging record conceptually and in the practice of listening that it seems fair to call Six Organs of Admittance‘s most experimental work to-date. That’s saying something. From Chasny‘s 1998 self-titled debut with Six Organs and certainly through his work with Comets on Fire, he — and a variety of other players included (or not) along the way — has maintained a fiercely creative drive. From early blends of synth and acoustics to bedroom folk to more complex arrangements, drone, psychedelia, brilliant traditional songwriting and far-ranging freakouts, it’s been a journey with more turns than straightaways, and while there’s a consistency in Chasny‘s level of performance and a progressive narrative can be drawn from one album to the next — Hexadic could be his 13th, depending on how and what you count — he’s maintained an ability to surprise each time out. So it is with Hexadic.

I won’t pretend to understand the mechanics of the record’s construction (unless the whole thing is bunk, which would be a much more prickish kind of genius), but as it’s how the songs were made, it seems prudent to include at least part of Chasny‘s explanation. Here it is:

This release is the result of years of working on a new way to compose music. We’ve been using the word “system,” but it would probably be more accurate to describe it as an “open system.” It is very malleable. The particular songs on this record were bent toward the idea of rock music. I composed 30 pieces using this system. Of those 30 songs, I chose nine that could best be worked into a rock format for Hexadic. I wanted to make a rock record. So there you have it.

…The system itself consists of different aspects, or correspondences, that can interact with each other or exist on their own. There are game, graphic, and language aspects that intersect with the plane of tonal relationships in a way that creates a unique assemblage. In fact, all of the words on the record were written using the language aspect of the system. The game aspects of the system can be played for fun or used as a compositional method. They can even be used as a performance in itself if the players are confident enough.

The work draws inspiration and uses ideas from three figures: Ramon Llull, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, and Gaston Bachelard.

Fair enough. Working on the recording with drummer Noel Von Harmonson, and bassists Rob Fisk and Charlie Saufley, Chasny uses this system of his own creation to craft nine varied tracks that run a gamut from the open-spaced jazzy post-rock of “The Ram” to the noise-caked drone of “Vestige” and the tense basslines and light guitar strums of “Hesitant Grand Light.” There are, as promised, “rock record” moments, but “Maximum Hexadic” — which is as freaked-out as Hexadic gets, with furious swirls of guitar and frenetic drums that pound away in a two-minute furious burst between the drawling, blown-out undulations of “Wax Chance” and centerpiece “Hollow River”‘s more plodding instrumental incantations — is more intricate structurally than one might expect from the quoted phrase. It’s been a long time since Chasny took shelter from the ash. Even the songs that have vocals, “Sphere Path Code C,” for example, use them not necessarily to convey an emotion or single idea in verses and choruses so much as to add another incarnation of the system itself, their patterns chaotic above likewise instrumental shifts. It’s not quite jamming, which Six Organs did plenty of on 2012’s heavy psych-minded Ascent (review here), but aurally kin to some of early Sonic Youth‘s feedback-caked excursions, with a sense of plan underlying and thicker tones. The earlier “Wax Chance” works in something of a similar form, but has a more solidified sense of verse to it, where “Sphere Path Code C” plays toward a more destructive result. All depends on what cards you draw, I guess. Or maybe not.

six organs of admittance notebook page

The more frustrated cuts like “Maximum Hexadic,” “Wax Chance,” “Sphere Path Code C” and the first half of closer “Guild” have a tendency toward the abrasive, and while the whole album is a challenging listen, it’s these most that would seem to convey the restlessness at the heart of Hexadic‘s creation. Still, an unexpected highlight is “Future Verbs,” which arrives late after “Sphere Path Code C” and finds Chasny exploring repetitions of a creeper guitar line over a slow, minimal drum and bass progression. Some ambient changes, but it’s primarily a mood piece, and there isn’t much more to it than that, but it’s one of the album’s most memorable tracks, giving way smoothly to the drone/bass interplay of “Vestige” and “Guild,” which in addition to ending Hexadic is also its longest track at 6:53, successfully ties together the unhinged and atmospheric sides of the release, starting off at full tilt and scaling back as it moves into its second half to end the album with a whisper. Fitting that Six Organs would end off by directly conveying the dynamic possibilities in the system Chasny created, since that’s essentially what the album demonstrates over its course front to back. That does not mean it will be a favorite for everyone who has followed Six Organs of Admittance even just over the last decade, but as open as the system is, it’s just as easy to imagine that Hexadic could take on a life of its own within Chasny‘s songwriting sphere and, amid other releases, become a series — Hexadic IIHexadic III, and so on. That’s getting ahead, obviously, but as much as he is able to put together in these tracks, there’s as much potential for development as there has always been in his work, that progressive thread turning, but continuing ever forward. Approach with an open mind. One of the best aspects of Chasny‘s efforts here is that if a listener doesn’t want to, they don’t have to even think about the songwriting method, the system or anything like that, if they don’t want to do so. Ignore it, if you want, and just listen to the resulting songs. Hexadic works that way, too.

Six Organs of Admittance, Hexadic (2015)

Six Organs of Admittance website

Hexadic Complete Bundle preorder

Drag City

Tags: , , , ,

At a Glance: Six Organs of Admittance, Ascent

Posted in Reviews on November 16th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Usually you don’t think of Six Organs of Admittance — the syllabically and emotionally weighted psych/folk incarnation of Comets on Fire guitarist Ben Chasny — as music in which the listening experience is relative to volume. Go figure that after nigh on 15 years and more headphone-ready contemplations than I think anyone can reasonably be asked to count, Chasny would present a record like Ascent (Drag City), which more or less flies in the face of his usual methods. Have at you, expectations.

Space rocking, freaking out on psych jams and, yeah, even proffering a bit of that fleet-fingered acoustic work that’s made Six Organs sound rich even at Chasny‘s most minimal moments, Ascent teams the guitarist/vocalist with — wait for it — his own band. That’s right kids. Backing Chasny‘s classic space rock thrust on cuts like opener “Waswasa,” “One Thousand Birds” or the catchy and bass-heavy later cut “Even if You Knew” is none other than Comets on Fire. Seems superfluous to say the two entities work well together, since Chasny is also in that band, but the songs on Ascent flat out rule.

The last Six Organs record, 2011’s Asleep on the Floodplain (review here) was touching on a more cohesive psychedelic fascination, but it’s still a pretty big jump from that to the rolling vinyl-set groove of “One Thousand Birds.” A cut like “They Called You Near” (is that a Blazing Saddles reference?) mounts an atmospheric build of chorus vocals and surrounding drone, and the solo acoustic “Your Ghost” — at least conceptually — could have come off any album since 2005’s School of the Flower, but “Waswasa” is high-order heavy psych, and the shoe-gazing pastures of “Close to the Sky” keep a heady Dead Meadow-style sensibility to them that culminates in a swirling, cathartic-sounding solo. Even the dreamy closer “Visions (from Io)” is complete in a way Six Organs has shown little prior interest in being. Maybe it was something Chasny needed to get off his chest. What the fuck do I know.

However much of Ascent was captured live — obviously things like Chasny‘s multi-tracked vocals weren’t, but the instrumental jams easily could’ve been — it sounds vibrant and organic thanks at least in part to the production of The Fucking ChampsTim Green, and the project’s long-heralded experimental penchant is presented clearly with varying underlying noises, drones, at time buried in the mix, at time consuming it, as with the rising electric solo to ultimate prominence in contrast to the acoustic beginnings of “Solar Ascent.” Ideas like that have been fair game for Six Organs for a while, but it’s the context that’s different, the full-band feel and what that full band is proffering that marks the change.

They’re touring the record, and though I’ve never seen Comets on Fire, I have caught Chasny as Six Organs before, and it should be interesting to see him as a “frontman” for a full band. In any case, with Ascent, he and his Comets cohorts have made a record distinct from either entity’s discography and yet inextricably part of both. Most importantly, the songs engage with the depth of melody that thankfully continues to typify Chasny‘s work in the band, and despite the boom in the accompaniment department, the music remains undeniably his own.

Six Organs of Admittance’s website

Drag City

Tags: , , , , , ,