It’s hard to keep up with Ben Chasny and his output as Six Organs of Admittance, and if the last few years have seen something of a slowing of output in comparison to the first decade of the new millennium, the quick succession of ‘The Hexadic System’, ‘Hexadic II’ and now ‘Burning the Threshold’ in less than two years following a three-year gap indicates something of a return to the prodigious form which marked the output of his early career. There’s something deeply admirable about such a work ethic. Because, even though Chasny has spent the last cycle of his career promoting technical innovation in terms of methodology, at no pint has he indicated a sense of superiority. And rightly so: the notion of creative genius or whatever is, frankly, bollocks. Yes, inspiration is important, and sometimes sporadic, but what matter is actually sustaining the desire to create, and powering through the more challenging, or blanker, times.
The press release positions ‘Burning the Threshold’ thus: ‘After the frenetic complexity of ‘The Hexadic System’ and the acoustic application of the methodology on its counterpart, ‘Burning the Threshold’ feels like quite a move. This feels very different from that, and quite different from Chasny’s other output. It’s an album dominated by magnificently elegant, delicate acoustic guitar playing.’
All of this is true.
As I type, Storm Doris batters the hell out of everything outside. The powerful, chill, wind blasts and buffets against the window of my office and roars past the house as plants and other objects in the yard my office window overlook tumble around in disarray. It’s gone 11pm and the gulls are crawing in panic and agitation, and much as my general attitude is that they should fuck off back to the coast, tonight, they have my sympathy. Yes, it’s wild out, and in perfect contrast, ‘Burning the Threshold’ is anything but wild. It offers an ocean of calm away from the chaos outside, and is a finely-tuned acoustic work which offers something of a return to Chasney’s well-trodden folk roots after the wild deviations of the ‘Hexadic’ works, but at the same time builds on those earlier stylistic themes and indicates an evolution from them.
‘Under Fixed Stars’ is a psychedelic-tinged fold song, slow, mellow and structured around simple chord repetitions. What’s clear here is that on this outing, Chasney’s focus is on organic, free-flowing song-writing, and the results are impressive. Stripped back and simple in execution, but effective, demonstrating an appreciation of the idea that les is more. Chasney strums and sings, sings and strums, a hazy 60s Kodachrome hue and dappled shade around the edges. Magnificent in its mellowness, ‘Burning the Threshold’ is a triumph of artistry and craftsmanship in a synthetic world.
Six Organs of Admittance Online