Six Organs of Admittance - Asleep On The Floodplain (Drag City 2011)
While San Francisco guitarist Ben “Six Organs of Admittance” Chasny has put out records consistently since the mid-’90s, he changed the game, hard, with the ‘05 release School of the Flower, A full studio setup served to “elevate his rusty drones and Robbie Basho-inspired folk figures to completely different realms.” Following that ‘un, he created a series of increasingly complex and stylish neo-psych long-players (making use of the LP format to create projects best heard within it, front-to-back), culminating in 2009’s gloriously weird and diverse Luminous Night.
Long-haulers may regard this new joint, Asleep on the Floodplain as a bit of a throwback to earlier records such as Dark Noontide and particularly Compathia — the music Chasny recorded in his living room — and that will not be wholly inaccurate. While Asleep On the Floodplain (his sixth project with Chicago’s Drag City label in as many years) retains the professional studio clarity, it bothers less with the cerebral experimentation, hewing closer to the simple acoustic meditations of simpler days.
At least, Floodplain is ultimately simple. “Dawn, Running Home” rests on several layers of noisy musique concrete, but still drives in its charming embedded melody. The entrancing 12-minute “S/word and Leviathan” begins with some of Chasny’s most sophisticated acoustic guitar work and blends in layers of noise until it pins the meters, but it’s still more about the mood than the composition, and neither is really anything too fancy. Even the disc’s weirdest track, the reverb-and-drone bath “River of My Youth,” sounds, in context, much gentler and more grounded than the sum of its arbitrary parts.
Despite his irrepressible psychedelic and prog instincts, Ben Chasny has always been fluent enough in folk and the blues to justify his weirdest whimsy. That’s probably why the “freak folk” bubble never damaged his credibility. With Asleep On the Floodplain, Chasny returns not just to his personal “roots,” but also to the roots of popular music itself. He gets back to nature, or as close as can be expected. It’s a surprising, refreshing shift of focus.