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Six Organs of Admittance - School of the Flower

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Artist: Six Organs of Admittance

Album: School of the Flower

Label: Drag City

Review date: Jan. 23, 2005

Since beginning his Six Organs of Admittance project in 1998, multi-instrumentalist (and Comets on Fire guitarist) Ben Chasny has been nothing if not extremely prodigious, releasing a string of LPs, CDs, singles, and splits under that name that puts most other musicians' work ethics to shame. Following up his work in 2004 (with new material coming in the form of the For Octavio Paz album and a reissue of a single-sided 12” The Manifestation) School of the Flower arrives as his first effort for the Drag City label and, coincidentally, his first studio recorded long player. Not that fidelity was ever an issue, really, for the home recorded output of the Six Organs material to date. But for his latest disc, the studio clarity (and the presence of the mind-bogglingly powerful free percussionist Chris Corsano) elevate his rusty drones and Robbie Basho-inspired folk figures to completely different realms. Normally I do my best to shy away from superlatives, but in this case it is warranted - School of the Flower easily ranks as Ben Chasny's best work thus far.

Corsano immediately makes his presence felt on the two-part opening suite "Eighth Cognition/All You've Left," supplying loose-limbed drumming that underscores Chasny's gentle drones before a more melodic songform emerges from the din. Here, he pairs an arched falsetto against plaintive finger-picking to excellent effect. "Words for Two" follows in a similar vein, all gentle chords and timid vocals that evoke tender simplicity and a sublime confidence that has never really come to the fore on previous recordings.

"Saint Cloud" is immediately reminiscent of older Six Organs' material, specifically the wondrous Dark Noontide album released a couple of years ago. Here, spare and ominous acoustic figures provide the springboard for darker drone textures to weave in and out of the piece, a tactic that is explored with similarly dazed results on the following "Procession of Cherry Blossom Spirits" and "Home."

The second half of the album, however, begins to explore richer territory that makes this album such a staggering feat of accomplishment. The title track begins simply enough with the intricately plucked acoustic figures for which Chasny has become known. His guitars, however, seem to provide a simple rhythmic frame that Corsano exploits to the fullest as he bobs and weaves his way throughout the track, supplying one of the most heart stopping drum performances in recent memory. The trick here is a gradual crescendo through repetition, not at all like the stodgy and predictable post-rock climaxes one associates with that method. As Chasny's guitars spin the same patterns over and over again, both his drones and Corsano's drums give the piece a feel of subtle shifting, returning to similar points again and again over it's 12 minutes, but never exactly feeling like the same moment.

Things get taken down a bit with the following track, a sweetly rendered cover of Gary Higgins' outsider folk classic "Thicker Than a Smokey" (taken from the Red Hash LP, which will be reissued this year). While Chasny's version can't hold a candle to the original, it's a great take nonetheless, steeped in laconic blues with a carefree back porch vocal vibe supplying just the right measure of restraint. The choice of this track for inclusion on School of the Flower is an inspired one, as it spotlights a relatively unknown artist who undoubtedly has had a significant impact on Chasny’s recent work.

At eight tracks and just a shade under 40 minutes, School of the Flower feels as though it's just warming up when "Lisbon" suddenly ends to close the album. As with any great album, it never outstays its welcome and always leaves the listener wanting more. For those who have never delved into the Six Organs of Admittance catalogue before, this is easily the best and most comprehensive place to start, as it provides an introduction into the various facets of Chasny's sound that have encompassed his records. And for those who have never seen what the fuss was about regarding this project, this is quite possibly the album you've been waiting to hear, the one that backs up all the glowing praise Ben Chasny has received over the past couple of years.

By Michael Crumsho

Other Reviews of Six Organs of Admittance

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Shelter From the Ash


Luminous Night

Asleep on the Floodplain


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