During the 2010 edition of the Incubate festival in Netherlands, Ben Chasny spent two weeks in the area and recorded a concept album, about small chapels he visited and got interested in during his stay. Called Maria Kapellen, they are typical of North Brabant.
The result, "Maria Kapel" is now released as an LP on his own label and is limited to 500 copies, considered in a certain way as a sidestep in his discography, reserved for die hard fans mainly.
But here comes the exception: I'm not very fond of the Six Organs of Admittance discography which I consider too psychedelic, but I came a across a live video of "Riel", which I found absolutely superb and which decided me to go further and explore this album.
"Maria Kapel" seems to be a much more reflexive, melancholic and meditative work than his usual compositions. Working alone, in a distant country, self absorbed by the contemplation of religious construction, he was probably inclined to explore more timeless subjects, giving a broader view on the human condition, as distance and loneliness can give unexpected lucidity. The result is superb.
It opens with "Annunciation", built with organ drones, and you really feel alone inside one of these chapels, surrounded by trees, finding some communion with the quietness of the place.
Played very naturally on an acoustic guitar, "Riel" is a very melancholic and emotional composition, full of sadness and loneliness, regrets and nostalgia, a sponge for moving souvenirs you'll project into it, the highlight of this album.
After these two tracks, you're on orbit and totally receptive to what will follow: mostly finger-style folk guitar like on "Stone, Leaf And Pond", looking a birds in the trees around a chapel with "Katwijk", with deep emotions never far from busting the surface of the water, finding shelter from summer thunderstorm on "Dongen", lazying around with "Tilburg", and back to Takoma style on "Maryam".
It ends like it started, with the organ, on "Two wings", a kind of atavistic dusk celebration as a revelation of the beauty of nature.
"Maria Kapel" is probably an uneven record but it's a comforting, restoring one and there lays its strength.
Six Organs Of Admittance at Incubate 2010 video preview from Incubate Festival on Vimeo.