Six Organs of Admittance
The Sun Awakens
ix Organs records never fail to provoke the critical morass, which is entirely logical, as none have honestly captured Ben Chasny’s guitar or vocal prowess. So, where to lay blame? If anything, The Sun Awakens—a direct reference to Octavio Paz’ poesy—is the closest to Chasny in vivo and the farthest from his best effort: a record nearly crippled by peculiar edits, bizarre sequencing, and a sheepish unwillingness to shave the chaff from the album’s ostensible centerpiece, the 23-minute “River of Transfiguration.”
Preceding word had cast The Sun Awakens as Chasny’s darkest record yet, a statement that stands true on song titles alone—“Torn by Wolves” and “Black Wall” to name two—but falls away at first listen. Chasny cannot strip the smiles from his chords; “Torn by Wolves” sounds more like a reworking of the Allman Brothers’ “Mountain Jam,” where the sun’s first rays are articulated in vibrant, nimble notes; toms and cymbals chirp and buzz as bird and insect, familiar bedfellows to a morning stroll. “Black Wall” builds on the quick acoustic work of School of the Flower; strings reverberate and rattle over a soaring electric backdrop, which overtakes the central riff in tidal fuzz as potent as Haino Keiji’s headstock meteorology, an unfathomable prowess that will eventually overtake the masters as Chasny’s comfort level rises. “The Desert is a Circle,” fuses Earth’s neo-Westernism with Ennio Morricone’s swift cinematic strumming; guitar figures which beg for equine fleshing, rock and dirt horizons, campfire converse punctuated by the lowing of wolves.
The second half of the record is as enigmatic as it is frustrating. The marvelous “Attar”—Arabic for fragrance or perfume—is 30 minutes too short, a tune given three minutes breath and suffocated before it even begins to develop. When Chasny’s electric guitar cuts through the mix, it’s the searing, sneering thug heard with Comets of Fire, not the ebullient bard inherent in his acoustic’s well. These are not so much riffs as they are gestures, an emotive tangle unwillingly regurgitated and spitefully spat out over the tail of the piece. What follows is “Wolves’ Pup,” a sort of “Torn by Wolves” redux, an affirmation of life after the feral violence of its progenitor. The epic “River of Transfiguration” unwillingly concludes the record, an amorphous throb that evokes much, but thrills little. The addition of Om bassist Al Cisneros is imperceptible; nowhere is his fault-rattling terra shifter; in its place is big rig idle and noteless bellow shakes. Eventually, chants break through the drone, percussive accents hit like random hail; voice and flute combine in whisper and subdued wail, washing over tone generators, gong, and guitar.
When taken piecemeal, The Sun Awakens is home to a handful of luxuriously impressionistic songs. In full, it’s a crankily unpredictable experience, which is compacted when one considers the maker’s talent level. Sure, there are flashes of undeniable brilliance, but most certainly not the full wattage of the awakening sun as advertised—far from the record Chasny's capable of making, again putting the proverbial ball back in his court.
Reviewed by: Stewart Voegtlin
Reviewed on: 2006-06-08