As a genre, you’d think it would’ve run its course by now, but apparently there’s still a lot of “freak” left in the “folk,” from beardo-weirdos like Devendra Banhart to warbling brainiacs like Joanna Newsom to psychedelic gurus like Ben Chasney of Six Organs of Admittance. Like his fellow freakers, Chasney is content to walk into the standard respectful coffee house and start throwing around the chairs. He likes the way a seemingly mellow acoustic strum can flower into an electric squall, or monk-like
om’s can give way to the rumble of what sounds like a jet engine. Sadly, like a lot of his peers, Chasney comes across as if he’s hermetically sealed off from the outside world. He also can’t sing worth a lick, which would be OK if he didn’t sing on nearly every track of his new album.
“Coming to Get You” begins with glorious, icy peels of guitar, but Chasney’s delivery of the title line sounds as urgent as him saying, “Dude, did you order the pizza?” “Alone with the Alone” chases its own tail lyrically and can’t get past first base musically.
Shelter doesn’t settle into one sound—which is fine—but it’s never able to harness its manic energy into anything coherent (the drums are really heavy, for reasons known only to Chasney). The best moments are the simple ones, like the acoustic closer “Goodnight,” when all the freaks are gone and you’re left with a lovely lullaby for all us basic folk.