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Six Organs of Admittance, "Companion Rises"

Cover of Companion Rises

When I first encountered Six Organs of Admittance some time in the early '00s, the bits and pieces I heard were scattered across different college stations, smothered by a popular glut of what I categorize—unfairly or not—"folk hipster wannabes." Consequently, the work Ben Chasny was doing became lost on me, choosing to turn my attention instead to more experimental drone and krautrock, two genres I viewed as mutually exclusive from folk. I had long been into psychedelic rock in the vein of Jefferson Airplane, but it wasn’t until I ventured into English folk like Pentangle and Fairport Convention in the '10s that I was pushed towards the psychedelic folk leanings of Roy Harper, John Fahey, and Sandy Bull. From there, it was easy to fall into a rabbit hole of amazing fingerpick guitarists, but the field of guitarists taking it deep into experimental sonic territory was sparse at best.

Drag City

Fast forward to 2020, and I am kicking myself for skipping Six Organs all those years. Nonetheless, I am beyond happy to be more intimately introduced starting with this one, which takes all of the great guitar sounds I became obsessed with, and smashes them together into an extraordinary sonic synthesis of acoustics, noise and drone. Chasny’s melodic and organic guitar work, ever present at the forefront, is enriched with added metaphysical imagery, sonic distortion, and synthetic ambience blending the musical palette to create pieces that are as invigorating as they are meditative. While loops and sound processing are abundant, they serve to enhance the emotive power of the songs, even on the occasion the sounds drown the uppermost layer of Chasny’s guitar. As an example, track "Black Tea" begins with rolling acoustic chords, becoming offset by echo and modulation, amping up the gloomy atmosphere as the phrase "I can barely move" is repeated.

Companion Rises retains the "psychedelic folk" moniker by beguiling the earbuds with a commanding acoustic cocktail, but bears plenty of sonic resonance to destroy the definition. "The 101" rocks out, a blur of noise and fuzz with vocals drawn back into the mix, but the electric guitar is never missed as it ends up monopolizing the song with a herculean solo that results in a potent finish. Standout track "Haunted and Known" kicks off with a gentle and passionate acoustic refrain that melts into waves of distortion, changing the gentle refrain into a melody of unease and wonder.

Chasny states the lyrics on Companion Rises relate to the stars. The cover shows a view of the sky at the last moments of sunset. Could the companion that rises be the night to our day, the dark to our light? If so, then the album seems to suggest that this companion is not all bad. The album settles into a gentle closure with the ambient piece "Worn Down to the Light," suggesting an ethereal—if not concrete—answer to that question.

Samples available here.