Ben Chasny is one of those dudes that you can’t picture without a guitar in his hands. Whether he’s ripping apart a roaring electric solo or strumming out a fireside drone, the notes seem to ripple out of his fingers organically. Chasny uses that natural power to propel a handful of projects, most notably the noisy psychedelia of Comets on Fire and droning folk outfit Six Organs of Admittance. Now that the former has been on hiatus for about four years, Ascent proves that he can fit those electric riffs in seamlessly with the latter’s ritual depth.
While Chasny’s recent work under the Six Organs heading has tended towards introspective, isolated territory, to say that Ascent is entirely new territory would be misleading. He’s never been afraid to take listeners out of their woodsy comfort zones and challenge them with bursts of feedback or endless ripples of mantra-like themes. Tracks like “Even if You Knew”, however, take their raga single-mindedness from a new place, relying on continuously spiraling guitar solos and shuddering rhythms. There’s something almost Doors-y to the track, with Chasny’s mystic lyricism now couched in more familiar tropes. Nothing quite matches the burning garage intensity of opener “Waswasa”, a five-minute guitar solo with occasional breaks for haunted vocals.
“Your Ghost” proves that Chasny isn’t turning his back on the tender stuff, either. “I was your friend, I was your light, I was your ghost,” he coos over a descending staircase of chords. “They Called You Near” similarly relies on the acoustic, a trilling, Eastern guitar riff anchoring a wafting pulse. The unifying factors between these glimpses of the recent Six Organs of Admittance past and the Comets on Fire-leaning electric guitar riffage is the primacy of the guitar, a compelling core.
Even when Chasny closes out the album a little silly with “Visions (From Io)” — intently whispering lines like “satanic rockets have launched” — the starlit scrawls of guitar make the entire thing fall into place. The track combines lilting elegance and fret-burning fervor, transporting the listener to a new plane where guitars ring free — much like Ascent as a whole.
Essential Tracks: “Waswasa”, “Your Ghost”