Leaving a two-year gap between albums is standard practice for most artists, but for Ben Chasny, 24 months is an inordinately long amount of time to go without releasing a new Six Organs of Admittance album. Chasny’s last Six Organs album, Shelter From the Ash, arrived all the way back in the last quarter of 2007, and in the time since, he’s moved to Seattle, toured Europe and the United States, and worked on other bits and pieces of music here and there. But all the while, he had been writing Luminous Night, his tenth album under the Six Organs name.
With that extra year of work put into it, one might think that Luminous Night had the potential of being a more expansive work than Chasny’s prior efforts. Yet, if anything, it’s merely further evidence of the sheer consistency, not to mention consistently high quality, of Chasny’s body of work. A quick run down the checklist reveals all of the elements in their right and proper place. A mixture of natural and mystical themes? Check. An almost even split between instrumentals and vocal tracks? Check. Precisely eight songs? Check. And, most importantly, some truly gorgeous and hypnotic psychedelic folk? Check, and double check.
Indeed, Luminous Night doesn’t so much present a drastically new or more epic side of Six Organs of Admittance (Sun Awakens was pretty epic as it was), but rather distills what Chasny does best in a cohesive and masterful whole. Its production is some of the most pristine and perfect sounding of any of Chasny’s recordings, and his arrangements are as intricate and interesting as they come. While, on a stylistic level, he hasn’t leapt any major chasms, he’s certainly added a certain depth to the compositions here, thanks in large part to violist Eyvind Kang, whose strings add a dazzling new element to four of the album’s eight tracks.
As with any Six Organs album, there’s a fairly broad array of sounds on display, each track its own unique and compelling piece of a carefully fractured whole. Leadoff track “Actaeon’s Fall (Against the Hounds)” begins the album with a flute-driven instrumental that’s part Incredible String Band and part Morricone, before trippy folk tune “Anesthesia” unearths Chasny’s mean streak through lines like “I am a vengeful man.” Of course, it’s often best not to take his lyrics too literal as they’re often fraught with mythology or allegory, and given that one of the noted inspirations for this album is the music from Kurosawa’s samurai films, it’s reasonable to see a connection to the films themselves. The outstanding “Bar-Nasha” finds Chasny’s minor-key acid folk backed by tabla, while Chasny himself sounds curiously like Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy, lending just the right touch of goth to the track. A buried tape recorder is the basis of fuzzy instrumental “Cover Your Wounds With the Sky” and “The Ballad of Charley Harper” finds Chasny turning a simple acoustic ballad into an effects laden freakout.
Luminous Night is a summary record of sorts for Six Organs of Admittance, displaying both Chasny’s knack for intricate, mesmerizing instrumental pieces and showing off his pop songwriting prowess as well, albeit through a distorted and woozy lens. In summary, it’s a Six Organs album, which in itself is something worth being excited about. That it’s an especially good one is just the icing on this acid-laced cake.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.