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Chris Schlarb

Twilight & Ghost Stories

(Asthmatic Kitty; US: 4 Dec 2007; UK: Available as import)

There’s quite a backstory to Chris Schlarb’s debut solo album. The Long Beach, CA jazz guitarist and producer. Twilight & Ghost Stories is the result of five years’ field recordings and solicited contributions from—by my count—at least 26 musicians, the kind of project that literally saves a life. The way it worked was that Schlarb collected musical ideas—as sparse as a piano phrase or clip of spoken word—without foreknowledge of how they could be incorporated into the fabric of his composition, with the result being a kind of aleatoric and random collection of sound. There are ten tracks on the 40-minute Twilight & Ghost Stories, but I couldn’t find individual names for them anywhere: either way, the whole thing flows together under waves of rain and white noise. These ambient noises may be the only unifying factor in what otherwise feels like a somewhat inscrutable collage, the point of which is, to say the least, obscure. Plus, the thematic and musical changes are so glacial that you need a certain kind of trusting patience, as well as an appreciation of experimentation. Occasionally, as on the third track, the layers of artifice peel back to show something real: as the waves of sound give way to big prairie cymbals and a tremolo piano figure, the music is momentarily visual and almost majestic—a true evocation of the country’s big sky.

Rating:

Dan Raper has been writing about music for PopMatters since 2005. Prior to that he did the same thing for his college newspaper and for his school newspaper before that. Of course he also writes fiction, though his only published work is entitled "Gamma-secretase exists on the plasma membrane as an intact complex that accepts substrates and effects intramembrane cleavage". He is currently studying medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia.


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