Listening to Ascent, the new album from Six Organs of Admittance, is quite literally like making an astral ascent. Like taking a trip upwards, through Earth’s atmosphere, to a land beyond in a place at once silent and incredibly loud, empty and bursting with energy. The project’s Ben Chasny eschews his usual acoustic approach for a sound full of sweeping, heavy guitar solos, a haunting album inspired by the vast expanses of the universe, a sound with a density to rival that of a black hole.
Ascent starts out with a big bang on “Waswasa,” where unrelenting guitar riffs drive the song, with distortion building like rising fog. It’s raw rock’n’roll with a dark edge, with cascading arpeggios and powerful crescendos that rip across the fretboard. On this track, as on “One Thousand Birds” and “Even If You Knew,” Chasny’s guitar is the star, the controlling factor and inevitable highlight. Ascent proves Chasny is a masterful guitarist, capable of effortlessly soloing and composing complex tracks.
On “Close to the Sky,” his guitar wails and soars above a bass and bells walking at the most languid of tempos like some kind of astral comet. It feels like jazz, supplemented with spectral, otherworldly vocals. Chasny croons and wails like Hendrix reincarnate, bending his notes until they swell to astronomic proportions, the reverb echoing out into space. He seems to savor each slow, sad note on “Solar Ascent,” where two guitars meld together interweaving, complementary melodies. “They Called You Near” and “Visions (from Io)” are both spacey and atmospheric, channeling imagery from the cold, remote moons of Jupiter and a rich, futuristic soundscape with Eastern guitar riffs reminiscent of a sitar or a medieval lute.
“Your Ghost” shows Chasny returning to his acoustic roots, its rich tones and quavering vocals providing a respite from the rest of the album’s dense, heavy rock. Ascent has shown what the musician is capable of–diversifying his sound and simply whaling on the guitar–but it also shows he’s one to watch in the months and years to come.