Six Organs of Admittance

Time is Glass

The 27th Six Organs of Admittance album offers an appealing take on the folk revival, but it's lifted to new heights by Ben Chasny's strongest vocal performance yet, finds Daniel Hignell

Eight months after his excellent collaboration with Rick Tomlinson, 2023’s Waves, Ben Chasny returns with another offering under his Six Organs of Admittance moniker. At this point, Chasny has firmly cemented the sort of sonic textures he’s working with, and those expecting another album of pleasantly plucked guitars and summery drones will not be disappointed. Despite such a recognisable palette, however, this is the songwriter working at his most restrained, an album that eschews the pseudo-rock hard edges of prior works and doubles down on a British folk aesthetic instead. 

Opening track ‘The Mission’ sets the pace with lingering vocals hovering above a gently strummed guitar – hardly battering down the door of originality, but affording a certain sparseness, a pleasingly underplayed hand. Indeed, Time is Glass as a whole seems structured around this same lethargic interplay – its more straightforward songs ever falling into a mist of warm drones, burbles, and hisses, vocal melodies ever collapsing against the gentle brushing of guitar. 

Despite such a deliberate, performed lethargy, the album contains several surprisingly straightforward compositions. ‘Slip Away’ is just such an example – a dour stab at singer-songwriter faire, complete with a catchy hook and some near-falsetto vocal gymnastics. What

at times may feel ordinary is thankfully buoyed by the same compositional openness in which

the album excels – each section gives way to an elongated stretch of meandering strums and

ethereal, post-rock atmospherics, pulling what is in essence a three-minute track over the

five-minute line.

Whilst the album works remarkably well as a collection of songs, instrumental tracks like ‘Pillar’ somewhat lack personality – pretty, well-executed, but indistinguishable from the sort of folk-revival fodder being put out by the likes of Bert Jansch fifty-odd years ago. Better, then, are the frequent moments where Chasny imprints his own personality on his music: the tape-hiss ballad of ‘Theophany song’, or the sublime, texturally incongruous colours of ‘My Familiar’. 

For my money, this is the first Six Organs of Admittance album that truly highlights the quality of its singer’s voice. I’ve always found Chasny to be a competent but at times uninspiring vocalist, yet here he shines. The lyrics are rendered with a timbre both soft and soaring, an unadorned delivery that adds far more gravitas to the music than ever before. The balance between its frequent falsetto and the delicate lower register is beguiling, its melody drifting above the guitar without ever grabbing focus. ‘Spinning in a River’, the standout track of the album, excels in a sort of floating, effortless performance, submerged lyrics courting perpetual collapse, elongated syllables falling against heavy strums. 

Time is Glass is both a pretty great Six Organs of Admittance album and a pretty great album full stop. Though its more committed embrace of British folk music is a double-edged sword – risking a smattering of beautiful but forgettable instrumental parts – the overall effect is mesmerizing, an album that allows its composer’s voice to shine through in new and often more elaborate ways. 

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