Comets on Fire, Six Organs of Admittance | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Comets on Fire, Six Organs of Admittance 

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Even in its summer-of-love infancy, psychedelia was more an attitude than a style. Musically the Grateful Dead's Anthem of the Sun, the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Pink Floyd's A Saucerful of Secrets were miles apart, but they had one thing in common: they messed with sounds in order to mess with your mind. Three and a half decades down the road, these two San Francisco-based acts have the same goal. Six Organs of Admittance, which is mostly the work of one Ben Chasny, sticks to the folkier side of the path. He layers radio static, chants, and backward electric guitar over vigorously fingerpicked acoustic melodies to create a patchouli-scented cloud around the project's eponymous 1998 debut, originally pressed in minuscule numbers by Pavilion and recently reissued on CD by Holy Mountain. On Dark Noontide, his latest album, Chasny brings in tablas and Eastern-tinged keyboard melodies. Comets on Fire, on the other hand, toss delicacy out the window and chase it with a few empty kegs; their bludgeoning riffs, howling leads, and cowbell clatter recall Blue Cheer and High Rise. Chasny, who has recently joined the band as a rhythm guitarist, leavens the heaviosity with some "floating guitar" and "camel bells" on the combo's Field Recordings From the Sun (Ba Da Bing!). But it's Noel Harmonson's squiggly Echoplex and oscillator ejaculations that elevate Comets on Fire's biker boogie to psychedelia. The band's vinyl-only eponymous debut has just been reissued on CD by Alternative Tentacles; for added value, the disc includes a live set that reveals the group to be even more manic onstage than they are in the studio. The bill also includes local psych heroes Plastic Crimewave Sound, whose swell debut, Flashing Open (Eclipse--vinyl only, of course), should be out by the time of the show. Tuesday, July 1, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Steve Krakow, Alison McBride.

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