One can’t keep the prodigious guitarist Ben Chasny quiet for long. Since 1998 Chasny has had a prolific output, releasing a Six Organs of Admittance record every two years at most before slowing down this decade to focus on his fascinating Hexadic project, writing two albums inspired by the chance-based card game he invented himself. Burning the Threshold is therefore a back-to-basics of sorts, Chasny’s first acoustic led record since 2011’s Asleep on the Floodplain.
Chasny’s skilful, fireplace-warm fingerstyle guitar and gentle instrumental interludes make Burning the Threshold a cosy and relaxing folk record. Opening tracks Things as They Are and Adoration Song set a more optimistic tone than his previous releases, with the latter ending on a satisfying slow burn electric guitar solo. With its sigh-like vocals and tranquil guitar-work, Under Fixed Stars sounds just as peaceful as its title suggests.
However, it wouldn’t be Chasny without a creep of melancholy, and that comes to the fore in the second half. Around the Axis has a more spontaneous, bluesier twang, while Taken by Ascent is the album’s pinnacle, a sinister seven-minute spell based on a mantra-like riff which gradually includes creepy Michael Gira-esque falsetto, restless percussion and ominous distortion. Psychedelic synths finally take the song to a more spiritual plain. Threshold of Light continues in this vein, incorporating medieval influences and apocalyptic lyrics.
Ultimately Burning the Threshold ends on a positive note as Chasny indulges himself in joyous guitar acrobatics on the cheery St. Eustace before finishing up with the peaceful Reflection. It’s a satisfying closer to a memorable addition to Chasny’s admirable body of work.
Listen to: Under Fixed Stars, Taken by Ascent