The Californian jazz guitarist's debut is a complex amalgam of random noise contributed to by a plethora of musicians, Sufjan Stevens among them.
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.