Six Organs of Admittance Turns Back the Clock on 'Time Is Glass'

BY Eric HillPublished Apr 29, 2024


Most writing about Ben Chasny's long-running project as Six Organs of Admittance features an obligatory mention of David Keenan's 2003 article in The Wire that described the arrival of an early 2000s scene he dubbed "New Weird America." Six Organs of Admittance is a cornerstone of the once-ascendent scene, and over the years Chasny has noted the confusion between scene and genre where, for a time, anything from Animal Collective to Joanna Newsom was inked into this freak folk diagram. More than twenty years and nearly as many permutations later, Chasny is tracing his path back to that diagram's origins.

Not that Six Organs ever travels in straight lines anyway. For the last decade, Chasny has found new energies in experimentation and expansion in all directions. At times this expansion was given shape by his invented "Hexadic" system, random cues dictated by six cards applied to notes on his guitar. Through these applied forms, his sound embraced the noise of chance in a kind of self-directed sonic adventure. The results were strange, compelling and retained a core integrity that defines all of Chasny's work.

His last album, 2021's The Veiled Sea, was a centrifugal whirl of electronics and electric guitar that felt like it was burning off the last of the pandemic. With Time Is Glass, Chasny hits something of a reset, returning to Northern California geography and the acoustic guitar that started his musical journey. You can feel the cleansing breath that comes with familiar surroundings and unhurried home recordings.

Pieces like "Pilar" and "Summer's Last Rays" call back to elements of his earliest goals, which included trying to play fast folk like Leo Kottke. While guitar mastery is directly associated with Chasny's work, much respect must be paid to his abilities as a songwriter. He balances stories of both inner and outer travels with the weightless soaring of synthesizer and guitar on "Slip Away" against the downward pull of "Spinning in a River," full of distorted overdriven harmonium.

Despite its relative simplicity, there's a fullness of meaning contained in this album. On first glance one might mistake it for a kind of "playing the hits" trick that many artists rely on as they revisit their origins. But digging in, Time Is Glass feels more like a progression of ease — 20 years on, Chasny is able to reach the astral plane the way most reach for a light switch. 

(Drag City)

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