In the course of ten years, the albums of Six Organs of Admittance have chartered explorations across a multitude of genres and styles, all driven on by a quiet yet uncompromising strength.
With the release of “Shelter from the Ash,” Ben Chasny’s distinctive mixture of heavyweight post-rock epics and finger-picking folk returns once more. However, rather than speak in terms of development or maturity, Chasny insists that there’s no reason why the formula should change from one release to the next.
“I think it’s a myth that records have to progress a certain way,” he says. “I don’t think there’s been a step A to step B for me. It’s just about how I feel at the time, which is always changing. The new album is a good example of not sticking to a trajectory of continuation…because I just don’t do records like that.”
Though Chasny speaks with an air of easygoing indifference, the maverick streak he has become known for is better understood in the context of his overall approach. While he won’t bow to outside influence, be it popular trends or the weight of expectation, he is intensely analytical about how his work is absorbed, tailoring his music accordingly.
“I don’t believe in the attitude of: ‘These are my emotions! This is my sound! People need to listen to it the way it is!’ You have to take into account how things are going to be heard – it’s part of the creative process. Perception-wise, I have to be aware of what the
listener is getting. It’s important for the way I work.”
When asked if he has ever caught himself mulling over how effective these efforts have been, Chasny can only shake his head. “You can never know,” he says. “Once it leaves you, you’ve no idea how it’s going to be received.”
Considered a figurehead for an overcrowded underground of hipster songwriters, so far his work has consistently strived in the face of misconceptions to establish an instantly recognisable sound. Yet having preceded the resurgence of all things folk by some years, Chasny has always insisted that his revered standing within such circles is entirely involuntary. Whereas most would welcome the likes of Devendra Banhart appraising them as an innovator of their genre, it’s something Chasny can live without.
“Oh, he’s just using me as a corpse to shield him from the machine guns inevitably comin’ in,” he laughs, shrugging modestly. “Maybe he says that but I don’t think anyone else thinks the same, so he’s probably just evading certain questions or levels of attention.”
For the time being, it’s a question worth deflecting. As tempting as it is for some to sum up the spirit of any particular age in music, it can only be done when the dust has finally settled. Odds are that when that happens, Ben Chasny will still be there, moving right along in the opposite direction.