Six Organs Of Admittance’s Ben Chasny is an artist known for experimentation. The trajectory of his output over the last twenty years or so is such that you’re never exactly sure quite what a new release from him will bring. It perhaps makes a warped kind of sense, then, that Chasny’s latest project is one likely to surprise even those that have followed his career closely over the past couple of decades. Following on from a duo of albums that saw Chasny working in a fresh new context, ‘Hexadic III’ is actually not a Six Organs Of Admittance album. Indeed, it doesn’t even feature Chasny of any of its seven songs – instead he assumes the position of musical curator, the resultant record being a collection of new recordings from a seemingly disparate group of artists.
Reading down the list of featured artists, it can be a struggle to join the dots and imagine how such a varied bunch could produce a stylistically cohesive whole. Upon hearing the album, however, it becomes clear that everyone on the record does, at least, have one thing in common: a sonically adventurous approach and a shared attitude of borderline avant-garde exploration. Some artists featuring on the album surprise less than others; Meg Baird appears alongside Charlie Saufley (both are members of monolithic fuzz-rock warriors Heron Oblivion) and the duo’s inclusion is unsurprising for anyone that knows Baird’s 2000s psych-folk outfit Espers; a group largely on the same page as Chasny’s own Six Organs Of Admittance in terms of originality and innovation. Jenks Miller’s contribution is also fairly unsurprising, his journey from avant-metal practitioner to purveyor of experimental-acoustica demonstrating his fittingly holistic musical attitude.
Some contributions are a little less expected, however – ‘Solastalgia’ finds Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley collaborating with Tim Wyskida and Marc Urselli. Those familiar with O’Malley’s particular brand of snail paced, droning doom metal might be surprised to see him popping up on a compilation curated by the likes of Chasny but it would seem that a sense of musical eclecticism and audacity is enough to warrant a place on the album, given that prolific experimentalist Richard Youngs and the equally free-thinking Tashi Dorji likewise make appearances.
In fairness, Chasny has worked with quite a number of those featured on the album in some capacity before but, nevertheless, ‘Hexadic III’ remains dizzyingly varied, sometimes to a fault. Although it’s entirely possible to create an album featuring multiple artists that has the cohesion of a record crafted solely by one, ‘Hexadic III’ doesn’t quite manage that. Had Chasny contributed to each track himself rather than just curated the album, it may well have had a greater sense of cohesion, the consistent touch of one artist bringing the pieces together in such a way that the album may have felt more like a traditional one-artist record than the various artists compilation that it actually does.
That doesn’t necessarily work against the album’s favour, however. ‘Hexadic III’s wide-eyed eclecticism lends the collection a definite sense of awe and it’s not hard to revel in the sheer creativity of the music found throughout the album. Make no mistake – this is a highly experimental collection of pieces and although there’s no overt theme that ties these songs and instrumentals together, they do all share an attitude, if little else. Moon Duo open ‘Hexadic III’ with the buzzing bass synths and languid drum machine of ‘Square Of The Sun’, allowing the album to get started on a placid, unhurried note. Replete with space-age ambience and a touch of bittersweet melancholy, it’s a beautiful instrumental and one which settles into a comfortable groove, nodding to the more ambient of kosmische bands along the way. Meg Baird and Charlie Saufley’s contribution, ‘Protection Hex’, takes the album down a darker path and constitutes some of the most unexpectedly bizarre work on the record. It’s one of ‘Hexadic III’s highlights, Baird’s vocals as flawless as ever, the song’s combination of stark piano chords and subtly ambient guitar work creating an engrossing, deeply textural soundscape.
Some of the album’s best material is saved until last. Phil Legard’s ‘Zoa Pastorale’ is an excellent long form organ composition; his meditative playing slowly building in magnitude, over the course of seven minutes, to something quietly luminous. As a piece of music, it’s one that’s hard to put your finger on and pin down – but therein lies much of what makes it such an intriguing piece. In that respect, it’s reflective of ‘Hexadic III’ as a whole. It’s a strange, often surprising album and it’s individuality is a large part of what makes it rewarding. Its idiosyncrasies encourage repeat listening and although Chasny himself doesn’t contribute directly to the music, ‘Hexadic III’ is imbued with the same adventurous attitude as the music which he makes under the Six Organs Of Admittance banner.