Six Organs of Admittance – Asleep on the Floodplain

written by: March 10, 2011
Six Organs of Admittance - Asleep on the Floodplain album cover Release Date: February 22, 2011


The prolific Ben Chasny,  Six Organs of Admittance’s, latest, Asleep on the Floodplain, picks up where School of the Flower left off in 2005. His recent releases have taken the Six Organs of Admittance sound to new places: The Sun Awakens introduced a tribal element and Luminous Night introduced brighter and more diverse instrumentation than he’s known for.

Asleep on the Floodplain marks a return to Chasny’s droned-out Americana, where he had more explore.

Opening with a solo piece for guitar,  “Above a Desert That I Have Never Seen” begins with a steady drone and some tricky Middle-Eastern-flavored guitar work before a main theme is introduced. Chasny’s fingerpicking skills allow him to hold down the rhythm and chord changes while also developing melodic figures. The piece meanders in the second half, but listeners who are content to chill out with some mood-setting music will find this suitable.

“Light of the Light” and “Hold But Let Go” remind listeners of Chasny’s best songwriting. He plays a beautiful guitar and sings in his trademark lackadaisical, reverberated vocal. On these tracks, Chasny is like that friend who can pick up a guitar and play new and beautiful things endlessly.

It sounds like he went camping with the listener and when everyone went to bed, he stayed out, looking around, gazing at the stars and playing these songs before dousing the fire.

“Brilliant Blue Sea Betwen Us” starts with harmonium and some shimmering strums. The drone in the background is subtle, but beating at a rapid rate. Acoustic guitar comes in with some simple, seemingly improvised lines which compliment the mood perfectly. The track recalls recent Six Organs of Admittance, but it blends in very well with its surroundings.

Chasny works well in free time on “River of My Youth,” the other highlight of the record. Slide guitar peers in and out and tremolo-picked chords flutter while he sings a verse in a deep voice as if he were reciting a mantra.

“S/Word and Leviathan” is the standard long piece on a Six Organs record. Chasny repeats a triplet of the same notes over and over for upwards of 12 minutes while introducing layers and random sounds (including his own voice). The piece gains intensity at the end with Chasny singing a verse and bringing in some electric guitar. It’s done well, but for enjoyment purposes, it goes on a bit too long.

Few have created such intricate and compelling acoustic guitar work since Nick Drake, but Chasny’s approach to writing is far more abstract.

And though Chasny can at times evoke the same level of emotion with his singing or playing, he often takes a detour. In some cases, the detour is a magical, vivid one, in others, it can be pleasant but not captivating. Asleep on the Floodplain provides the same balance of songwriting and mood setting that School of the Flower did with a few new tricks. It’s only odd that it was released six years and three albums after.

Six Organs of Admitance – Asleep on the Floodplain tracklist:

  1. “Above a Desert That I Have Never Seen”
  2. “Light of the Light”
  3. “Brilliant Blue Sea Between Us”
  4. “Saint of Fisherman”
  5. “Hold But Let Go”
  6. “River of My Youth”
  7. “Poppies”
  8. “S/Word and Leviathan”
  9. “A New Name on an Old Cement Bridge”
  10. “Dawn, Running Home”