Long-term drone-folk exponent Ben Chasny returns, three years on from the low-key beauty of 2017’s ‘Burning the Threshold’, with something a little more textured. By which we mean ‘absolutely smothered with contrasting layers’ – this is a record that merges acoustic with electric; sci-fi with Gnosticism; organic with algorithmic; banal with spiritual. If the theory sounds a little too much to digest, it’s really not in practice: ‘Companion Rises’ is an easy listen and utterly gorgeous with it.
The opening synth wash of ‘Pacific’ feels appropriately like the ebb and flow of the tide, albeit composed of ambient glitches that crash and subside. This sensation is later revisited towards the album’s close in the sliding chords of ‘Mark Yourself’, as Chasny sings softly of "a house that bows down to love" and electronic noises mutter uncomfortably in the background – moods, motifs and themes colliding, recurring and picking away at each other. In many ways, the record offers an exploration of the uncertainty of existence, but the Six Organs sound always remains so comfortingly warm – celebratory, at times – that it’s impossible to feel unsettled by the whole thing.
Best of all are ‘Two Forms Moving’ (effortlessly loveable nu-folk, powered by a furious electric band version of itself rattling away in the distance) and ‘The 101’, where a simple melody is refracted, uncanny valley-style, through hypnotic loops. Outside of the ruptured sequencing, the latter initially seems like one of folk’s oldest tropes: the road song. As we hear murmurs of "you can lock into the night in a machine mode", however, it becomes clear that there’s more on Chasny’s mind than the simple existentialism of travel.
Of course, ‘Companion Rises’ offers few answers to the questions it poses, and often identifying those questions is a puzzle in itself. Luckily for us, unravelling the various threads swiftly becomes a compelling pleasure.
Words: Will Fitzpatrick
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