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Six Organs Of Admittance / Joseph Mattson - Empty the Sun

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Artist: Six Organs Of Admittance / Joseph Mattson

Album: Empty the Sun

Label: A Barnacle Book

Review date: Feb. 25, 2010

It’s ironic that Six Organs of Admittance’s first long-form collaboration with another medium is the soundtrack to a book. Their records (or more accurately his — Ben Chasny is the sole constant member) are so unabashedly filmic that a partnership with Alejandro Jodorowsky, Werner Herzog, or some director of revisionist Westerns would seem more a propos. But here it is, and in an age where records are becoming ever more ephemeral, it’s a beautiful thing.

The CD comes packed into the back of a standard-sized paperback, but the excellently mastered and pressed LP comes in a jumbo-thick sleeve that holds a 12”x12” edition of the book. Regrettably the book is tripped up by a grievous flaw of self-publishing — it’s in desperate need of cold-hearted editing. The problem is not with the story, which concerns a journey of atonement by a guitarist mired in alcoholism after losing a finger, but with the author’s affection for overwrought verbiage. Try this sentence on for size: “All life ground out of a single peppercorn of wayward matter pissing up into the coiled and sardonic grin of the microscope, battling faith for the charms of heaven.” There are plenty more like it.

Given that Chasny’s recent albums for Drag City have fully indulged his penchant for the grand gesture, he could have amped up the melodrama, but to his credit he went the other way. His compositions are spare, elegant and mostly instrumental. The most obvious antecedent in the Six Organs discography is For Octavio Paz, but where that record was solo, acoustic and inward-looking, this one sounds more kinetic and expansive, and Chasny has paired his own acoustic and electric guitars with Steve Ruecker’s strumming and steel playing.

It’s swell on-the-road stuff. As befits a story that involves a drive across the desert, there are swooping western motifs on “Clean the Wound” and “Goddam the Sun.” In another geographically themed gesture, he nicely matches the tone Terrible Ted Nugent obtained so long ago on “Journey to the Center of Your Mind” with his stun-guitar lead on “Blackened Road”; parts of the story transpire in Michigan. And since the story honors people who have died, it’s fitting that the album closes with a sad, gentle cover of the late Epic Soundtracks’ Sisyphean “Roll The Stone.” But Chasny jettisons fidelity where it counts. While the book is a chore to read, this LP not only stands on its own, it’ll take you places worth visiting over and over again.

By Bill Meyer

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