Six Organs of Admittance : Time Is Glass

Six Organs of Admittance Time is Glass review

Since emerging with its eponymous debut album in 1998, Six Organs of Admittance has primarily functioned as a solo project for guitarist and composer Ben Chasny. Although Six Organs’ music is rooted in American primitivist folk guitar styles, Chasny often incorporates electric guitars and drone effects into his songs, ensuring the “psychedelic” half of the project’s “psychedelic folk” genre foundation applies to it just as accurately as the “folk” half does. In contrast to the last Six Organs of Admittance LP, The Veiled Sea, which was shot through with dark, moody, occasionally heavy guitar riffs, the instrumentation for the project’s 21st album, Time is Glass—which finds Chasny back with Drag City—is predominantly gentle and acoustic, with inspiration drawn heavily from the rural, pastoral home life Chasny leads in Humboldt County, northern California.  

The album’s sedate yet haunting mood is established effectively at its outset by the single “The Mission,” on which Chasny croons gently yet hauntingly, in a style similar to English singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka through dark lyrics like “Tell yourself / Fire should burn us too.” This is followed by the instrumental “Hephaestus,” which, despite being an ambient piece, also manages through its chorus of drones to maintain a spooky and ominous atmosphere. “Slip Away” is one of several songs on Time is Glass that captures a mood of melancholia and regret, as Chasny sings of his sadness at having “missed the whole mystery” of “the morning sun” due to having lacked “a battery / To take a photo of the dawn.”

The plaintive, longing tone of Chasny’s voice on “Theophany Song” conveys a feeling of things being sad now, but having the potential to improve in future. This sort of mood perhaps derived from the domestic nature of these songs’ originating environment. The vocals take on a haunting, other-worldly quality on “My Familiar,” as Chasny sings the dark, surreal lyrics: “They play on Sunday But in the shelter of their house / They’ll tell you in a careless way Their best friend is a mouse.”

The production values on “Spinning in a River” and the instrumental “Summer’s Last Rays” are among Time is Glass’ most vivid and fully realized, featuring rare (for this album) instances of electric guitars, organs, and what sounds like tape loops being incorporated into the mix. “New Year’s Song” is an apt title for the closing track of such an introspective record, given that it takes its name from a time of year when the passing of one arbitrary unit of time to another frequently instills in people artificial feelings of renewal and opportunities for self-reflection. Whilst musically upbeat, the track’s lyrics are heavily imbued with sadness, telling a story of someone for whom “the stars can barely burn.” It concludes on a note of, if not contentment, then at least reconciliation to things as they are, as Chasny sings about feeling “no blame.”

While Time is Glass may lack the comparative musical abrasiveness of The Veiled Sea, Chasny captures a richer atmosphere in its understated instrumentation. It is not a dark album, but it is frequently a sad one, and Chasny’s acoustic guitar-playing and forlorn-sounding vocals affectingly evoke the rural wistfulness of solitary woodland walks.

Label: Drag City

Year: 2024

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Six Organs of Admittance Time is Glass review

Six Organs of Admittance: Time Is Glass

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