Thursday, September 03, 2009

Six Organs of Admittance—RTZ (Drag City)

Ben Chasny’s folk/psych project rounds up some rare split and limited edition releases on this sprawling double CD/triple LP release. Recorded at home on a Tascam 424 four-track—the title refers to the unit's RTZ (“Return to Zero”) button—the five epic “segments” showcase the more mystical, murky side of SOoA. None of them are in a hurry to get anywhere; each explores a becalmed and forlorn sound-space while wandering into some weird nooks and crannies along the way. With just four tracks and a few guitars Chasny creates some impressive music. It's often sparse, as his recording methods have dictated, but it's never in any danger of becoming uninvolving. “Warm Earth, Which I’ve Been Told” embraces stasis, with a quavering organ drone supporting a variety of clanging string sounds, the whole thing bookended by a mournful guitar figure and chanting. Bleakest number here? On “You Can Always See The Sun,” Chasny’s intricate playing is offset by a looming drone of distortion. “Punish the Chasm With Wings” offers the most contrast. A low, prolonged hum threatens a cacophony, which arrives with an electric guitar spazzout overtop some frantic acoustic guitar and primitive drumming, which is in turn replaced by the same low hum. It's like scanning a radio dial exclusively occupied by weird underground radio stations, for whom Ummagumma and First Utterance are the foundation for all music. Despite originating between 1998 and 2003, the pieces on RTZ are remarkably cohesive, fitting together to form an audio mural of beautiful desolation, to be listened to with lights off and contemplated like an ultra-malevolent Wyndham Hill album. I don't know if Chasny chose these pieces wisely or simply had them as his only non-album tracks, but they work well together. Wallowing in ramshackle beauty and noble loneliness, RTZ is a unique and important entry in the Six Organs of Admittance saga.

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