A TESTIMONIAL RIFF: Tony Rettman on SUNBURNED HAND OF THE MAN, SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE, COMETS ON FIRE (Nov 2003)

Above: the cover to Arthur No. 7 (Nov 2003)—artwork by John Coulthart, design by W.T. Nelson


Dark Funk, Gardenfolk and the Almighty Zaps
This summer, underground psych bands SUNBURNED HAND OF THE MAN, COMETS ON FIRE and SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE ventured across the continent in a traveling caravan of mindblowers. Tony Rettman reports live from the scene.

Originally published in Arthur No. 7 (November 2003)—available from The Arthur Store

“Jazz doesn’t have to swing and rock doesn’t have to rock and religion has next to nothing to do with God.” —Richard Meltzer

Yes. Meltzer’s testimonial riff is the kind that can really get you going going gone. Strip music of any elements that seem banal, pretentious or overly cerebral. Twist the sound into something of your own. Create a primal celebration of boundary-less independence. Join the others who’ve walked through the door marked “Free”—and emerge with a blown mind full of free jazz, psychedelia, proto-metal, oddball folk, prog rock, blues, English country rock, funk, mind-numbing drones, electronic music, non-genre improvisation.

In the past few years, a seemingly ever-growing number of underground American artists have been making that trek Beyond, collecting elements from these sounds and shooting them through a post-punk perspective, laying the results down on self-pressed vinyl and home-burned CD-Rs, sold through homegrown distribution networks like Brooklyn’s Fusetron, Arizona’s Eclipse Records, and Massachusetts’ Forced Exposure and Ecstatic Yod.

But a funny thing is happening. Through next to no effort of their own, these freaks are now attracting the attention of curious folk from outside the esoteric, near-hermetic circles that their music was necessarily born from and sustained by. Indeed, the very definition of this genre-obscuring cult movin’ on up happened this July when three of the finest units out of this quote scene unquote descended on Pianos in NYC to strut their stuff: San Francisco’s’ loud-as-hell psychedelic four-piece Comets On Fire, Boston’s 15-member sound collective The Sunburned Hand of the Man and the author of the new chapter of gypsy folk meanings from Santa Cruz, Six Organs of Admittance. This show—the conclusion of a three-week tour—brought together three groups who are aesthetically linked in approach, intensity and a loosely limbed philosophy: Here’s how the whole enchilada—the show, the tour, the bands themselves—came together and got down to getting Free.

* * *

Ben Chasny is Six Organs of Admittance–he is the sole soul responsible for the unearthly and solemn sounds created under this moniker, with others occasionally sitting in on recordings and live sets. Tonight at Pianos in he first and he plays alone, acoustic guitar in his lap, head down and hair in face, with only his black jackbooted heel to keep the beat. “Transcendent” is the bang-on word to describe what Chasny lays out. His music conjures up foggy, half-remembered memories of drunken nights in overlit fluorescent rooms that pulse. Strange feelings that mix danger with joy. And then he busts out with a cover of Neil Young’s “A Man Needs a Maid.”

Visiting with Chasny later in the evening over a beer at the bar, I get some background. Continue reading

Ah! New Om

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Above: Page from article on Om in Arthur No. 22, published May 2005. Photograph by Lars Knudson, design by W.T. Nelson. Bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros on left. Drummer Chris Hakius, pictured right, has since left the band. Note Black Sabbath altar.

Ah! The closing instrumental cut from the forthcoming Om album, God Is Good, out September 29 via the great Drag City Records of Chicago. Emil Amos, of Grails fame, is Om’s new drummer…

Stream: [audio:http://www.arthurmag.com/magpie/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/OMCremationGhatII.mp3%5D

Download: “Cremation Ghat II” – Om (mp3)

Om are playing shows over the next couple of months, including a seven-date East Coast jaunt with Six Organs of Admittance, who also have a new album out on Drag City. (Listen to new Six Organs music here.)

Om’s Al Cisneros and Six Organs of Admittance’s Ben Chasny in conversation: The Way of the Riff, from Arthur No. 27.

A new song by Six Organs of Admittance, “Bar Nasha,” is featured on Al Cisneros’ multi-artist 2009 compilation for Arthur, Transmissions From Sinai, now available from Arthur’s easy-to-use mail-order store. Also featured on Transmissions is “Kopernik Trip Note,” a new song by Lichens, who will be opening for Om and Six Organs on the aforementioned East Coast swing, and “Acid Rain,” by Grails. Yeah!

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Thursday morning music: New Six Organs of Admittance song from forthcoming album

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Download: “The Ballad of Charley Harper” – Six Organs of Admittance (mp3)

Who was Charley Harper? Ben says: “Charley Harper was this incredible artist from Cincinnati. He did all sorts of nature screen prints and basically took nature’s organic forms and made them into very basic geometric forms. He saw the complexity of nature and explained it in the simplest of forms. Charley did a lot of art in science books for elementary school children and you might even recognize his stuff from way back then. He also wrote some really beautiful thoughts on man and nature. In his book Birds and Words he has a whole chapter on birds that were either going extinct or were already. On the Eskimo Curlew, across from his beautiful depiction, he wrote:

In Autumn the Eskimo Curlew fueled up on berries and snails and flew the Atlantic non-stop, from the New England Coast to South America; in spring the breeding instinct drew him back to the Barren Grounds of Canada via the Mississippi Flyway, where he fueled on insect pests. Both ways he ran the gauntlet of a hunter army, which stalked him from state to state to provision meat counters by the wagonload. One hunter downed 28 Curlews with a single blast to become the 20th Century’s Man of Extinction.

“Charley Harper passed away on June 10, 2007.”

The Ballad of Charley Harper appears on Luminous Night, the new Six Organs of Admittance album out August 18 through the good people of Drag City — more info here.

Chasny has been featured in Arthur many times over the last five years, including a profile by Tony Rettman in Arthur No. 7, a cover feature in Arthur No. 15 and in a special dialogue with Al Cisneros (Om, Shrinebuilder, Sleep) in Arthur No. 27. All issues are available from the Arthur Magazine Store.

New Arthur CD "Transmissions From Sinai" now available

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“TRANSMISSIONS FROM SINAI”
(Arthur 0005)
curated by AL CISNEROS (Om, Sleep)
cover artwork by ARIK ROPER

Track listing:

1. Lichens – “Kopernik Trip Note” (previously unreleased)
2. Linval Thompson – “Wicked Babylon”
3. Grouper – “Everyone in Turn”
4. Current 93 – “Mockingbird”
5. Scott Kelly – “The Ladder In My Blood”
6. Quixotic – “The Breeze”
7. Hush Arbors – “The Valley”
8. Mia Doi Todd – “Night of a Thousand Kisses”
9. Six Organs of Admittance – “Bar-Nasha” (previously unreleased)
10. Holy Sons – “Drifter’s Sympathy”
11. Pantaleimon – “At Dawn”
12. Grails – “Acid Rain”
13. Sir Richard Bishop – “Almeria” (previously unreleased)
14. J. Mascis – “War” (previously unreleased)
15. Wino – “Silver Lining”
16. Alpha & Omega – “David and Goliath”

All proceeds go to supporting Arthur Magazine’s mission.

Edition of 1,000.

“Here are sixteen reports, differing approaches that, through their own individualized methods, access the one ground. It’s a privilege and blessing to have known many of the musicians on this disc, to have shared in song with some, and stages with others. In all cases I have been the healed recipient of their craft sitting alone with my headphones… Here is their auditory journal.” —Al Cisneros February 2009

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO…

The lost electric Six Organs of Admittance album…

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Whoa. Stop the presses and grease up the download slide… Howlin Rain/Comets on Fire bro Ethan Miller has posted lost electric Six Organs album recordings at his Silver Currant blog:

It was made during the ‘Field Recordings From the Sun’ rehearsals. Ben Chasny decided that he wanted to do an electric project with some of the Six Organs songs. He wanted a mellow groove oriented backing band as a platform and a foil for wild guitar and the Six Organs narrative and asked Comets On Fire to be the band…. MORE MORE MORE