By JENNIFER KELLY
Hexadic is Ben Chasny’s most blistering and abrasively feed-back shocked piece of work in some time, its nine compositions paced at a meditative tempo, but amped into white noise intensity. Comets on Fire’s Noel Von Harmonson adds abstract, chaotic drum fills to some cuts and two bassists — Rob Fisk of Badgerlore and Charlie Saufley of Assemble Head of Sunburst Sound — put ponderous weight beneath others. But this is mostly Chasny’s show, a guitar tour de force in volume, ferocity and, occasionally, lyricism.
You should know that Chasny made Hexadic with the help of a system involving cards, where each card represented a specific note and melodic lines were determined by the luck of the draw. The details of this system are somewhat opaque, even when described in detail, but the effect seems to have been to prevent falling back on usual tricks and to force Chasny to explore unexpected musical twists and turns. Whatever didn’t work, one imagines, was shuffled back into the deck.
Yet though the composition of this album makes good copy — it’s fun to think of Chasny drawing cards and slapping his forehead in dismay at the random shit he has to play — it’s the execution that makes it compelling. These are not melodic lines that stick in your head, generally, except for maybe the one in “Future Verbs” (which sounds very Rangda-ish to me). But when in play and especially when they employ guitar, drums and bass, they take on a meaty kind of mysticism. Reading cards, after all, has always been a gate towards non-rational understanding.
So, on “The Ram,” for instance, there’s a palpable sense of quest in the way that Chasny’s splayed chords, widely spaced, react in staggered intervals with Von Harmonson’s home-made explosive volleys of percussion. It’s like they’re in different rooms, the way that their two lines don’t quite coordinate, but also like they’re listening to themselves and to something larger, as they work out their parts. “Hollow River” is majestic in its corroded harshness, voices murmuring at the edge of consciousness, but subsumed in shape-shifting, splintering assaults of feedback. The melody, however derived, is secondary to the brutal tone.
The best part of Hexadic comes near the end when the lyric “Future Verbs” unwinds in liquid clarity, its introspective guitar riff refracted in dark echo chambers so that it feels both loud and very still. It melts imperceptibly into “Vestige,” with its horror movie reverberating dissonance, all uneasy surface and muted sub-surface violence in drums and bass. Whatever notes were suggested by the cards are of, really, very little importance here. The critical thing is the way those notes make themselves heard, in moans, hisses, buzzes and echoes that create mood rather than legible melody.
Hexadic is a dramatic shift for Six Organs of Admittance, lurching into noise and abstraction with hardly a nod to guitar folk or psychedelic rock. The way it was made has very little bearing on what you hear, but if it took a pack of cards to get Chasny out of his comfort zone, so be it.
DOWNLOAD: “Future Verbs” “The Ram”