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Shelter from the Ash 

CD by Six Organs of Admittance.
Drag City Records.

At this point in Ben Chasny's storied career, it is unfair to continue referring to John Fahey and Robbie Basho in an attempt to situate the Eureka native's musical orientation. His accomplishments in Six Organs of Admittance, as well as Comets on Fire and various other collaborations, have established Chasny as one of the forerunners of the so-called New Weird America movement and made him an almost iconic model within psychedelic and folk music circles. Shelter from the Ash, the latest addition to an already extensive Six Organs catalog, continues down the same creative path of Chasny's earlier work, albeit a path that grows darker as it winds.

Shelter from the Ash is marked by a foreboding sense of destruction and despair that purposely create unresolved tensions within the listener. Chasny and company waste no time establishing this effect by opening with the gently picked melodies and shadowy drones of "Alone with the Alone." Inspired by the mystical world of Sufism, the song's pensive hum is highlighted by a pair of striking guitar solos that prove to be as pleasing as they are disconcerting. While it may seem tenuous ground for a songwriter to stand, it is exactly within this delicate balance of distress and aural bliss that Six Organs attain their utmost success. Even during the album's more serene moments, especially those that introduce the syrupy vocals of Elisa Ambrogio (of the Magik Markers), tranquility is offset by a lurking sense of harrowing loss.

While Shelter from the Ash is not an explicit political statement, there certainly exist allusions to the current Middle East crisis that permeate throughout the album. Portentous lyrics ("it ain't between who we know/ one quick war to come/ god ain't breeding and the end is fear/ all us with rotten teeth hum/ I'm coming to get you") combine with a swirling mass of acoustic interludes, meditative drones, buzzing guitars and ominous vocals to play out the dramas that reflect war's grim realities. It is an effort that Chasny's current supporting cast seamlessly sews together in order to present a majestic yet apocalyptic vision that continues to haunt the listener long after the music fades.

It is impossible to try and position any Six Organs release against another and argue the worth of one over the next. However, in the weaving together of this bleak tale, we are allowed access to a more brooding version of Chasny than was previously realized. As we look at today's precarious state of world affairs, the timeliness of this unsettling release may prove to be the most provocative and enduring work of Chasny's catalog.

— Michael Mannix, Journal critic

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Michael Mannix

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