The proliferation of digital recording and file sharing, as well as the tremendous expansion of music blogs in the last fifteen years has expanded the reach of experimental, psychedelic, and improvisational music tremendously. If someone wanted to hear or make music that sounded like a cat trapped in a dryer and amplified to the point of total cacophony 15 years ago, your options were pretty limited. Such music existed of course, but it was the prevue of specialty labels, small isolated scenes, and obscure corners of the record store labeled ‘avant-garde’. The explosion of experimental music in the digital age has been a mixed blessing for those of us who like this stuff; on the one hand, there is so much more to choose from and it is so much easier to get a hold of. On the other hand, there is a lot of crap to wade through in order to find something really special.
The new record by Six Organs of Admittance, Hexadic, offers a likable, but pretty familiar take on the guitar based, ’60s nostalgic psychedelia that has been visited, revisited, and then revisited again by too many musicians to mention here. 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.
At its best moments, Hexadic hints towards the bluesy undertones that were the lynch pin of ’60s era psychedelic rock. Unfortunately, just when Six Organs of Admittance start building up to a soulful, gut-wrenching, bluesy climax, they back off and wander off into more fuzzed-out noodling. Take Hexadic‘s second track “Wax Chance” as an example. The track goes along, grooving, and strutting in a pleasant sexy way, but just as they are moving towards real momentum somewhere around the 3:30 mark, the track slows down, then speeds up, and then it is over. Now go ahead and listen to “Wax Chance”, and then go listen to the first track on Earth’s crushing 2014 release Primitive and Deadly, “Torn By the Fox of the Crescent Moon”. The basic format is the same; a wall of drones and feedback over which a blues riff chugs and grinds.
But that basic formula is where the similarities stop, and in the end, there really is no comparison. Where Six Organs of Admittance content themselves with thin, spaced-out, jamming without any real intention or purpose, Earth lock into a devastating groove, and about halfway through the track Dylan Carlson’s guitar comes soaring above the lockstep bluesy gait of the rhythm section like a breaching humpback whale. This comparison is probably not completely fair to Six Organs of Admittance, since Earth are true masters of their craft and few bands active today can bring soulfulness out of chaos quite like they can, but the contrast serves to prove my point: If experimental or psychedelic music does not go somewhere it will lack emotional impact.
Like a good deal of experimental, psychedelic, noise, and improvisational music, Six Organs of Admittance might very well be a very different beast live. One can easily imagine a crowded, marijuana smoke filled club, lit only by the gentle glow of lava lamps and the bowls of burning bongs, swaying and nodding their collective heads to Six Organs of Admittance. The tracks on Hexadic sound very improvisational to me, although I do not know for sure how they were composed. If this stuff can fully manifest in a live setting through well timed improvisation, Six Organs of Admittance might just be able to hold their own opening for a band like Earth.