Six Organs of Admittance: Hexadic II

The acoustic follow-up to this year's noisy Hexadic is another fresh turn for Six Organs of Admittance.
Six Organs of Admittance
Hexadic II
Drag City

Leave it to Ben Chasny to create a system for cutting loose. Chasny’s Six Organs of Admittance records, to this point, have represented an extended lesson in ducking expectation. Though they may all have the same meditative vibe, there are no two Six Organs of Admittance records alike. The impressionistic layers of records like Dark Noontide made way for the masterfully spacious School of the Flower, a record that could in no way set up the psych-rock expanses of The Sun Awakens, and so on.

There was a moment a few years back — from Shelter from the Ash to Asleep at the Floodplain — where it seemed maybe Six Organs had settled in. Maybe the wander acoustic compositions awash in grinding atmospherics would be the project’s permanent sonic address. Then Ascent blew that out of the water with its towering licks and sheer volume. But it Hexadic, a record that came out earlier this year, that has truly set the new path. It is based on Chasny’s new system for creating music, and that new approach has opened up a whole new realm for the Six Organs of Admittance sound. Hexadic took the rock leanings of Aspect and blew them out into shards of white noise and craftily patched together guitar phrasings. The album was Chasny at his most unruly, his most untethered, and despite the continued feeling of deep meditation it was also Six Organs of Admittance at its most fun.

Hexadic II takes the same approach as its predecessor, but applies the system to the acoustic guitar rather than the electric. The results are surprising, as capable of knocking you sideways as they are of wrapping you in comfort. Opener “Fear Havoc Night” starts as a spare exploration of the space around the guitar. Chasny rolls out some tentative runs along the neck, letting the notes ring out, and just when you think he’s just warming up you feel these fragmented notes take shape, shambling along as Chasny’s voice fills up the space between them. The song moves deliberately, never breaking its deliberate, trudging stride, but the effect of the notes and the vocals changes over time. It gets deep into your ear, seeps under your skin, and all of a sudden all that quiet around the guitar feels filled, or maybe it’s just that echo feels not like a result of the note but an extension of it.

Hexadic II‘s finest moments remind us that this is Chasny’s greatest talent: making the quiet seem so loud, making space seem like something dense, making stillness seems so damned dynamic. “Exultation Wave” seems at first to build on a riff that aligns immediately with the American Primitive tradition, but a second guitar comes in — along with distance atmospherics and Chasny’s wandering voice — and upsets the mix, shifting a dusty romp into some mesmerizing vision quest. “Anyone’s Dawn”, the longest song here, rounds out the opening trio of tracks on the album, and finds Chasny at his most expansive. The guitar fills rest somewhere between flamenco and the chunked-up experiments of the first track, but here the other layers don’t fall on top of the guitar, they melt into it. Guitars tangle with one another, and humming noise latches on, so that the song smolders but never fully catches fire. It’s a perfect exercise in tension: you wait for the song to erupt at first, but the tension comes in realizing it won’t and then not wanting the song to end.

The rest of the album follows suit nicely, especially on the back-to-back haunt of “Cut Angle”, the album’s most haunting song, and “Wasp Code”, it’s most warm and inviting. As the album eases into its second half, it starts to feel less like a collection and more like a whole with clearly identified movements. Occasionally the back and forth between guitar and space feel less dynamic, especially on the slow build of “Vile Hell”, but once the album leads us to the hazy closing notes of “Poor Guild”, there’s the sense of having traveled a great distance. Hexadic II is another fresh turn for Chasny as Six Organs of Admittance. It seems no matter the path he takes, he always covers a lot of ground.

RATING 7 / 10