Jean-Xavier Boucherat chats with Ben Chansy, aka Six Organs of Admittance.
As might have been mentioned, we’re big fans of inane genre tags. The uselessly vague Freak-Folk label started getting thrown around in self-absorbed magazines around about the turn of the century and since then has repeatedly failed to encapsulate an abundance of interesting sounds, some of which may have mutated from what was and is already an incredibly diverse and adaptable form (that is, folk).
For example, it should be fairly obvious that applying the term to guitarist Ben Chansy’s Six Organs of Admittance is an entirely crass thing to do. Look at his back catalogue and it’ll quickly dawn on you that ‘varied’ isn’t really the word – a split single with California stoner-doom duo Om, and collaborations with current 93, Sunn0))), Devendra Banhart, and not to mention a member of psych-noise adventurers Comets on Fire.
Chansy has kept the affair personal for his new record, Asleep on the Floodplain, a mixture of intoxicating psych-jams and poignant, succinct acoustic compositions, recorded in his own apartment. ‘This record is actually my least collaborative in a long while. After so many guests on the last few records I wanted to strip it down’. There is a consistency in the record which suggests this. That’s not too say this spoils it any way, but in the past Chansy has expertly demonstrated the greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts magic of collaboration. ‘I think my favourite collaboration so far was with Hiroyuki Usui for the august Born record. All of the tracks were sent physically through the mail and we would attach pictures and graphs as to how the music should fit together with letters and presents. It was pretty exciting. I also really enjoy playing with Rob Fisk in Badgerlore. He’e been a big influence from way back when he started Deerhoof with Greg as a noise band.’
You recorded this album at home. This way you can avoid some of the hassle and problems you’d get in a studio, but did you encounter any problems recording at home? For instance, did the process become suffocating at all?
I was living in a really small studio apartment with my girlfriend so it was hard to carve out a space and time to record. It was sort of like, “are you planning on going out today because I feel inspired to record. Can I have an hour?” That sort of thing. It was never really suffocating. There were many moments of being tangled up in chords and wires. I think there is a great art to recording in a studio that certain really great engineers bring. I hope that doesn’t get lost in the proliferation of home recording.
There’s a mixture of droning, pscyh-laced jams and more crafted pieces on the new record. For example, ‘hold but let go’ seems to act almost as a signpost, mixed like it is between soundscapes that a listener could easily get lost in. Do you like the idea of people becoming disorientated in your sound?
I kind of hope that the music would be more orienting than disorienting. That sort of sound has just always appealed to me, which is why I do it so much I suppose. I think it is because in my own life I generally listen to more ambient stuff and also acoustic, so I like to put those sounds together.
How would you feel about a world without fx pedals?
That world doesn’t really appeal to me because I love insane pedals. I have one built by Bill Skibbe, who runs a studio in Michigan and recorded the School Of The Flower record, that is totally insane. I also like Last Gasp Laboratories.
This record feels quite rooted in place.
The record is pretty rooted it the place that I grew up as a child. I wanted to see what I could do with that. It seems the couple records before it were concerned with here and now and they ended up being pretty depressing. I wanted this one to be a little more lively.
Chansey has got an exciting year ahead of him. ‘I’m looking forward to getting back on the road and playing some Six Organs shows. I didn’t tour at all last year. I’m also looking forward to finally putting out some records by myself, just little things but things I’ve wanted to do for a while now.’ Keep your eyes open for a Glasgow date – Chansey is an exciting artist who’s almost certainly worth your attention.
Asleep on the Floodplain is released Feburary 14th on Dragcity.