This will be a pleasure to write, it made the weekend worthwhile for me. I’d already seen Six Organs of Admittance play a show in the UK, but having been involved in the setting up and so forth I had not felt truly a part of the audience there. I had enjoyed it, but had one foot on each side of the river; a balancing act which is never entirely conducive to listening.
Although Elisa Ambrogio and her kind caterwauling were not present for this performance (I think she went back to the States to play some Magik Markers shows) this three-piece incarnation had all the tools they needed. I might well have embarrassed myself after the show. I was talking to baritone guitarist Andrew Mitchell and I’m not entirely sure I stopped short of saying it was one of the best shows I’d ever seen. Ah, fuck it, who cares! It just was.
During that conversation he accidentally hit on one of the reasons. This touring band had been on the road for about five weeks. I don’t think I’d be far off the mark if I was to say that they had travelled from an almost hasty assembling to some real musical entanglement. Like a five week long first take recording. The mics were turned on back in Portugal and on this night in Minehead they got turned off. It was the last show; it was almost time to go home.
The band were probably extremely tired. On ‘Strangled Road’ the chorus hinted at the vengeful rush I’d heard ten days ago, but after a brief snarl they quietened down and moved through it’s dark premonitions delicately and with love. ‘Hum a Silent Prayer’ boiled like a viscous liquid and ‘Coming to Get You’ nailed everyone in the room with its nervous power, when much of the set had passed half of them through.
Randall Dunn, who produced the recent Six Organs record, joined them to play some keyboards on one or two tracks. I believe he played on ‘Anesthesia’ and possibly on ‘Bar Nasha’, both of which come from that album and both of which are stone songs that tumble, gathering weight but not speed. Alex Neilson’s drumming becomes a constant shimmering in this band, at once intricate and mellifluous. It suits the weighty interlocking of Andrew Mitchell’s baritone and Ben Chasny’s telecaster, oscillating brightly behind them without distracting attention from the intonations. I’m surprised that I don’t wish they had a bass player.
The sound in the ‘Reds’ venue was perfectly suited, the vocals were audible but not elevated beyond the guitars. Chasny took the solos in Ambrogio’s absence, making some elements remarkably different in their logic and influence but similarly free and inspired. If this sounds like a bearded geyser of praise to you, can I just say that having seen many of these songs performed live in the past, they’d never gone so far as this, not even close. I was inside the music for the entire hour and I’m thankful for it.