Quietly, Ben Chasny is building one of the most enviable discographies in post-millennium rock music (well, quietly under his acoustic moniker of Six Organs of Admittance, but ear-scorchingly loud with his psyche-rock outfit Comets on Fire). It’s more than a bit puzzling that Devendra Banhart is hailed as a genius in the freak-folk scene and Dungen can garner rave reviews on Pitchfork, but Chasny can release better records in each genre and still be relatively slept on.

Angela Cesere
Apparently this guy missed the point of “Grizzly Man.” (Courtesy of Drag City)

The Sun Awakens is a wake up call. 2005’s School of the Flower, Six Organs’s previous effort, was excellent, providing a glimpse at the softer side of Chasny with mostly solo acoustic tunes that sounded like a long-lost record from 1971. This time around, Chasny has taken Six Organs a little further towards the acid-soaked riffing of Comets on Fire, all the while maintaining a completely separate identity – avoiding sounding like an acoustic version of those San-Fran psych warriors.

In fact, 2006 may well be the year of Chasny, with the next Comets on Fire record, Avatar, due August 8, (but with a promo copy already in heavy rotation in this writer’s stereo) showing significant growth in almost every way – lyrically, vocally, sonically, cosmically, you name it.

It seems as if the two projects have heavily influenced each other, with Comets on Fire inspiring songs like the drawn-out, drone-laden “River of Transfiguration” and the rollicking “Black Wall” and Six Organs giving that group a lesson in composition and arrangements.

The Sun Awakens is another step away from the freak-folk scene, as defined by the 2004 Devendra Banhart curated compilation Golden Apples of the Sun (which featured a Six Organs of Admittance track, “Hazy SF”). But it seems more like a progression away than a retreat from that sound, building upon that whole stoned guy with a beard and a Martin aesthetic. The addition of Comets drummer Noel Harmonson and a ton of guitar pedals furthers the distance between Six Organs and the pared-down, lo-fi sound of the Golden Apples crowd.

It’s rare these days for an artist to have multiple, thriving, active bands that put out increasingly great releases at a reasonable pace (are you listening Matthew Friedberger?!), and it’s also increasingly rare for an artist so talented to escape the Internet hype machine that makes and destroys careers in the indie scene. Chasny has done it by making incredibly raw music that defies easy classification, and his star shows no signs of fading anytime soon. The Sun Awakens and soon, Avatar, are two more pillars of the new music pantheon Chasny is building – they are records built to last rather than some Pitchfork flavor-of-the-month bullshit, and they are hopefully harbingers of more mind-bending music to come.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Six Organs of Admittance
The Sun Awakens
Drag City

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