On last year’s Six Organ’s of Admittance release, The Sun Awakens, Ben Chasny (who also plays guitar for Comets on Fire) ventured into murky sonic regions. He has been synthesizing a dark, lilting approach to the acoustic guitar and a noise-rock sensibility for years, but on that album it all came together, culminating with the droning, nearly twenty-four-minute-long “The River of Transfiguration.” The disparate elements of the Six Organs of Admittance sound coalesced into a vision that encompassed both monotony (of the best kind) and a deep sense of dread. Chasny has done much to sharpen that vision on Shelter from the Ash, his ninth full-length album.
There are real songs here. Not that there never were before, but on previous albums most of Chasny’s vocal parts felt tentative and sketch-like, qualities that aided rather than detracted from the gravitas of those records. But when Chasny and singer Elisa Ambroglio hit the chorus of “Strangled Road,” Shelter from the Ash‘s second track, they do it with the delicacy that we expect and with an open confidence that is surprising. The song closes with a quietly roaring and perfectly arced electric guitar solo.
“Final Wing” is built off of a winding guitar pattern with an unstable time signature. At first it gives the impression of being a study in repetition and layering, but it soon gives way to lush and melancholy combinations of piano, electric guitar, rumbling sound effects and, finally, vocals. It is a remarkable song for its combination of rigor and mood, the same qualities that make this album a consummate success and a powerful listening experience.
Shelter from the Ash was produced by Chasny and Tim Green (of the Fucking Champs and the Nation of Ulysses), who also plays on the album, and features offerings from Matt Sweeney, among other notables. It bears the marks of diligent workmanship. Previous Six Organs of Admittance releases have always been sprawling, varied and somehow incomplete. They were like foggy windows through which the listener imperfectly glimpsed Chansy’s blurry outline. It would be an exaggeration to say that form and concision are wholly new for him, but on this album he has made all the lines a little finer. The results are beautifully solemn.