Ben Chasny, main man behind Six Organs of Admittance, has been crafting his swirling noise-folk for long enough for us to wonder how he manages to keep it sounding so fresh. Luminous Night serves as an answer to that question. The album can be hushed and secretive, drawing you into Chasny’s curling voice and pastoral guitar tones. Or it can be a massive cacophony of giant hiss-and-crackle soundscapes.
After the stately, near-military stomp of opener “Actaeon’s Fall (Against the Hounds),” the album truly takes off with “Anesthesia.” Flute, horns, and strings thicken into a ghostly fog over Chasny’s playing. His voice is just barely coated in reverb, and the whole song glides along with a beautiful chill. “I’m a vengeful man,” he sings toward the end of song, and while he sounds like a benevolent haunt, he is one too beguiling to be trusted.
There are other moments with this same giant haze, from the earthen bounce of “Bar-Nasha” to the pastoral slide of “Ursa Minor.” But while Chasny has slowly moved into more accessible territory on recent albums, and continues that move on Luminous Night, it is not all so hushed and inviting. “Cover Your Wounds With the Sky” is a grinding hunk of noise. It hums and buzzes deep in your ear. Buried in the white noise, though, is a clanging piano that eventually draws you in with its light, innocent plunks. “River of Heaven” is in one way a spacey and beautiful piece for violin. Cymbals break that smooth ride with faint crashes, and Chasny hits his low-tuned guitar hard, accenting the strings’ buzz. And the simple folk of “The Ballad of Charlie Harper” is bombarded by swirling loops of guitar feedback.
It’s this combination of the simple and the intricate, the elegant and the forceful, that makes Luminous Night work so well. It draws equally from Chasny’s noisemonger side and his Fahey-inspired, folk-guru side, and meshes them together with a subtle flair for the cinematic. It may be a dark light he’s after, but it’s got a beautiful shine all its own.