Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

cover art

Six Organs of Admittance

Luminous Night

(Drag City; US: 18 Aug 2009; UK: 10 Aug 2009)

With “Actaeon’s Fall (Against the Hounds)”, Six Organs of Admittance’s Luminous Night begins on a deceptively cheerful note. Couched in the medieval idiom, the song would be excellent background music for your next Dungeons and Dragons game. The pleasing, grandmother-friendly mix of viola, flute, and acoustic guitar (which is complemented by six repeating electric guitar notes periodically throughout the song), is so subtle and beguiling that only the most careful listeners will recognize the suggestion of darkness that comes to bear on all that follows.

Six Organs of Admittance is the project of Ben Chasny (also well-known for his participation in the psych rock outfit Comets on Fire), and Luminous Night is the 11th SOOA album, and the first new one in nearly two years. It’s not for newcomers. Mining everything from traditional English folk music to Middle Eastern atmospherics, it has a hypnotic, blood-pressure-lowering quality that, listened to closely and repeatedly, could induce episodes of involuntary spontaneous de-evolution. In other words, given the proper opportunity, Luminous Night will mindfuck you gently, but thoroughly.

Track two, “Anesthesia”, has a narcotizing effect, but you’ll resist sleep out of fear of the dreams you’ll have as the music (a loping acoustic guitar is slowly overtaken by smears of electronic noise as Chasny sings about vengeance and god) seeps into your subconscious. The song winds down to silence before giving way to the dreamy undulations of a sitar, accompanied by an acoustic guitar and hand percussion on “Bar-Nasha”. The repetitive, sinister music moves like a convicted man toward the hanging tree as Chasny’s imperiously sings about “the son of man”.

It’s heavy, heady stuff, and Chasny doesn’t let up. “Cover Your Wounds with the Sky” is as oblique as its title suggests, starting off with a wall of hesitating static that’s soon complimented by equally hesitant piano notes. The noise grows louder, but otherwise, not much else happens until “Ursa Minor”, a more traditional folk song—still dark, though; always dark—drops in, bringing with it recordings of insects, birds, and other unintelligible sounds. It’s brought to a close in a flurry of percussion and moans, giving way to the Pink Floyd-esque, 7-minute-plus epic “River of Heaven”. Here, one would think, Chasny would shine, but it proves to be the most tiresomely ponderous track on an otherwise consistently compelling album.

Nowhere is Luminous Night more rewarding than on its penultimate track, “The Ballad of Charley Harper”, a gorgeous ode to the recently deceased artist and children’s illustrator. “An atom is an atom / To the great and the small”, Chasny intones again and again, as if the phrase was loaded with deep, revelatory meaning. By the final track, “Enemies Before the Light”, listeners will be ready for a cool-down session, and the first few moments of the song suggest one is coming. But rather than move along linearly, the song grows like a hole in the sky, as disquieting noise shoots through at a gradually increasing pace. Here, finally, the listener’s diastolic blood pressure will finally return to normal as, like a fading star, Luminous Night falls silent.


Matt Gonzales is a freelance writer living in Indianapolis, Ind.

Related Articles
17 Feb 2015
While Six Organs of Admittance do an admirable job of crafting big walls of feedback and drones over which to jam, the tracks on Hexadic tend to meander and stumble around without really going anywhere.
By Matthew Fiander and Arnold Pan
29 Jan 2015
Get a sneak peek of some of February's most intriguing releases, including albums by Father John Misty, José Gonzaléz, and Dan Deacon.
By Matthew Fiander and Arnold Pan
11 Jan 2015
Get an early glimpse of the best and most eagerly anticipated albums of the new year, including new efforts from Sleater-Kinney, Father John Misty, Belle and Sebastian, and Viet Cong.
By Matt Spencer
23 Oct 2012
After bringing in some friends from his many other projects, Ben Chasny's Six Organs of Admittance has just put out their most thundering record ever, and sits down for his third go-round with PopMatters, telling us all about it ...
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks

© 1999-2015 All rights reserved.™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.