Six Organs of Admittance is the project of Ben Chasny. Original inspiration for the band came from wanting to merge the styles of fingerpicked acoustic guitar with more improvisational drone elements. A copy of Hans Peter Duerr’s Dreamtime book provided the early blueprint for the analogy of fingerpicked = civilization vs. noise = wilderness that was to dominate the first few records. Early records were recorded on a Tascam 424 mkII four-track and self released while Ben still lived in Humboldt County. Eventually Six Organs hooked up with the label Holy Mountain, who reissued the first two records and released the third, Dark Noontide.
A tour with the late Jack Rose happened in 2000, as well as Ben’s move to Santa Cruz, where he would begin fraternizing with (and eventually joining) the band Comets On Fire. Six Organs recordings continued to be made on the 4-track in Ben’s room with the records For Octavio Paz and Compathia.
In 2003 Six Organs went into the studio for the first time and recorded the record School of the Flower. This record was notable for having drummer Chris Corsano (whom Ben would later form Rangda with) as well as being the first record in a longterm relationship with Chicago indie label Drag City.
Since then Six Organs has moved from one city to the next as well as touring across the USA and Europe many times, along with the occasional festival. One highlight was being invited by the band Neurosis to play their weekend of curation of Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Holland, in 2009.
Tilburg seems to be friendly to Six Organs as they were invited in 2011 to participate in a 2 week artist residency to travel and draw inspiration for music from the local Chapels of the Virgin Mary that dot the south Netherlands countryside. The end result was the Maria Chapel LP, which was recorded from a live performance in a Church in Tilburg.
The following are a few notes on the records that Six Organs has done that may not be known to most people. These are not the only Six Organs releases. For a complete discography head to Discogs.
s/t – The second track, which features a long drone, was recorded with the intent to make it into an Eta Corina song with Aolani, who plays the drone on a her detuned violin. I remember some people thinking Aolani must be the girl singing with me, but no, that was me as well. I’ve got a girl’s high register, what can I say? There was an obscene amount of coffee drank while recording this record. The last track has a 12 string tuned to all one note. It was an enormous thrill to put out my first record all by myself. I pressed 400 of them and still had copies 5 years later. The first pressing didn’t have my name in the notes at all. I hand painted each cover and made a stamp with the phrase “Six Organs Of Admittance.” This was some sort of attempt to create the sort of mystery private press Lps that I myself enjoyed.
Dust and Chimes – I hadn’t planned on making a second record as Six Organs but one day I recorded the track Dance Among The Waiting and realized it would make a good template for a new record. At about this time I was steeping myself in records by Incredible String band, early Tyrannosaurus Rex, Broselmachine etc. In that manner if was a more conscious effort to make a psych-folk record than the first one. The song Journey Through Sankuan Pass was recorded at about 11 A.M. on my kitchen floor with a warm spring sunbeam illuminating the room. I remember it being something of an attempt to respond to Sir Richard Bishop’s Salvador Kali record. I still play it at almost every show.
Nightly Trembling – This record, which was first released as a lathe-cut in edition of 33 was originally going to be part of the Dust and Chimes record. You can hear a similar tone in the recording. I decided to break it up into two records, with one being the long drone one and the songs going on Dust and Chimes. All original copies of the record were given away as some sort of attempt at anti-sorcery or something (I had just read Bruce Kampferer’s Feast of the Sorcerer about Sri Lankan Anti-Sorcery practices and consciousness. Not a bad book!). It’s been amusing to watch the copies appear on ebay over the years. The record was later re-issued by Time-Lag and then as part of the RTZ triple Lp collection on Drag City.
Dark Noontide – I took the photograph on the cover at Trinidad state beach in Humboldt County. A few of the songs feature my good friend Ryan Hildebrand, who had played in bands in southern California like Los Cincos and Volume 11. The record has songs that I recorded over a couple of years, so the subject matter varies a bit. The song Awaken was one of a series of guitar sketches I recorded that day, again, on my kitchen floor. The song 1000 Birds was inspired by the Attar’s visionary recital, Conference Of The Birds (I am aware that there are more than a 1000 birds in the story). The song Khidr and the Fountain was inspired by the writer Henry Corbin, whom I was just beginning to get into at the time. It was recorded in Santa Cruz.
For Octavio Paz, Compathiá and the “lost” solo record – It’s often misconstrued that Nightly Trembling and For Octavio Paz were related because they were both released by Time-Lag with similar covers. The truth is that Compathiá and For Octavio Paz are sister records. For one, the term Compathiá comes from Octavio Paz’s book The Double Flame. All the songs for all three of these records were recorded around within the same time in my basement room in Santa Cruz. I separated them into instrumentals, songs with singing, and songs that had perhaps a nice melody but were too straightforward. A highlight of the Compathiá recordings was Ethan Miller’s guitar solo on the last song where during the recording he got so into it he jumped up and straddled the little amp sitting in the chair to pull feedback out of it. Originally I was going to release the solo record on the Ba Da Bing label, but a review of Compathiá made it seem as if I wanted to be some sort of folk song guy, so I said “fuck that” and pulled the record from ever being made. The reason it floats around is because I made a copy for a friend who made a copy for a friend and so it went until someone put it on the internet. I also remember the songs that ended up on For Octavio Paz being very influenced by the Mick Turner solo records that I was playing every morning. George Jones, Nikki Sudden and Bole Sete were other big influences at the time.
School of The Flower – The first studio album. I was crazy sick the first half of the session and loaded on cold medicine. On some of those nights I would go to sleep early and just let Chris Corsano experiment in the studio. That is how the drums to the title track came about. The song Words For Two was inspired by a short film my friend Cam Archer made where too young boys fall in love and have a suicide pact. I’ve heard of people who wanted to use that song as a wedding song. I didn’t have the heart to tell them what it is about. Saint Cloud was really written in Saint Cloud, Minnesota in a Hotel room on a night off from touring. Lisboa was written in the window of the ZDB gallery in Lisbon.
Sun Awakens – The second record for Drag City. Written while living in Oakland and recorded in SF by Tim Green at Louder Studios. A conscious attempt to not ride the wave of acoustic music that was getting popular at the time. Perhaps shooting myself in the foot. Tim had a lot of great ideas, such as wiring a dimmer switch to a leslie speaker that we would run the electric guitar through and then be able to adjust the rate within a chord. We ended up running a lot of vocals through that leslie as well. The last song on the record was recorded with a great many friends that showed up to the studio one day, including Al Cisneros from Om, who played bass on the track. During the writing of the record Al and I had been meeting for coffee in the mornings and discussing things like music and chess (of which my minimal grasp of was highlighted by Al’s expertise in.) Another person to play on the record was an old friend from my days working at Streetlight Records in Santa Cruz, John Connell. John played the Ney and Daf on the record. At streetlight he was responsible for ordering all the metal for the store.
After moving to San Francisco, I decided to record another record with Tim. A lot of this record was written in standard tuning. I was listening to a lot of Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac at the time. Elisa Ambrogio came by the studio and helped out with vocals and some electric guitar overdubs. Matt Sweeney swung by too, with an acoustic guitar, on his way to the airport. He has some sort of amazing chocolate from the Gods that he shared with us. This record sort of highlighted the general idiocy of reviewers who fail to comprehend that just because a particular record sounds a certain way, it doesn’t mean that it exists on some sort of linear progression. I don’t believe in the myth of linear progression. I think that subsequent records proved that Six Organs releases are more rhyzomatic in nature and any one can be attached to any other one, in terms of songwriting. Maybe the sound fidelity has progressed a bit, but not always. Noel Von Harmonson, who usually plays noise in Comets, came by the studio to prove his prowess as a drummer, as he did on Sun Awakens. We slowed down the drums on the song “Coming To Get You,” inspired by Dale Crover’s drums on the Lysol record.
Recorded while living in Seattle with producer Randall Dunn, who produced a few heavy records for Earth and Sunn O))), among others. Randall’s ideas included putting a contact mic on the acoustic and running it through an echoplex and amp in another room. Randall suggested a few Seattle musicians to play on the record, including Eyvind Kang, who recorded a few violin pieces. Watching Eyvind work was truly inspiring. The guy breathes music. For one track on the record, Cover Your Wounds With The Sky, I recorded a drone on a 4-track cassette and buried it in my front yard at the beginning of Autumn. Toward the middle of Winter, when we started recording, we dug up the tape and hooked the 4-track up to a Sunn full stack, turned it up and recorded that. A lot of pho was eaten during these sessions.
Asleep On The Floodplain – An attempt to go back to home recording with half the album recorded on 4 track cassette and half on computer. To smooth out the sound Randall and I went to —- studios to mix it. Much of the record was recorded in my kitchen in Seattle. The title comes from a a recurring dream I have of the area where I grew up, Ek River, CA, being flooded, as it actually often did in the winter.
A return to Louder Studios (though it’s moved from SF to Grass Valley, CA) with Tim Green and the Comets boys. Ethan has already written about how this songs originated here. A lot of the guitar tone for this record comes from a fender reverb unit that was left in the studio by my friend Charlie of the band Assemble Head In The Sunburst Sound, who used to be Comets practice space room mates.