July 7th, 2014 , by John Beeler
“There’s a lot of freedom in playing solo,” says Chris Schlarb.
Fresh off the release of his new one-man, four-song, full-length LP, Making the Saint, Schlarb is taking to the road for a solo tour of the US this summer. Freed from the constraints of collaborative playing, his repertoire will encompass not only Saint‘s generous gamut from pop standard to long-form composition, but also covers ranging from Tears for Fears and XTC to ’60s soul duo James & Bobby Purify, in addition to material from both LPs recorded with his Psychic Temple project.
There will be a few surprises, too, says Schlarb: “Really, the only limitation is what I am able to come up with and execute.”
Schlarb’s tour will take him across the country and back, playing some 30 shows in just 40 days over July and August.
“Also,” adds Schlarb, somewhat mysteriously, “I built an 8 foot tall, mobile Psychic Temple to perform inside of.” This alone may be worth the price of admission.
A full list of Chris Schlarb’s tour dates is available at his official website, and Making the Saint can be purchased on CD, MP3, and limited edition white vinyl.
May 27th, 2014 , by John Beeler
If Chris Schlarb’s new solo album feels like a moment’s rest—a brief retreat, a meditation in solitude—that might be because this is exactly how the album was recorded.
The story of the making of Making the Saint, out today on Asthmatic Kitty Records, is ultimately simple: Chris Schlarb needed a break. As the composer and bandleader of the Psychic Temple project, Schlarb has lately been demonstrating his auteur-like ability to put into place all the details of an intricate musical tableau. Last year’s Psychic Temple II LP set idiosyncratic pop tunes and more abstract musical explorations in highly complex arrangements, and accordingly the ensembles Schlarb brought out to support it were some of the biggest he’d ever wrangled.
After all of that, he felt the need to do something a little more intimate. He gathered up his instruments and headed by himself to a 19th-century cabin in the dusty San Bernardino Mountains, where he proceeded to lay down the tracks that would become Making the Saint.
A four-track, full-length album, Making the Saint is in its own way as ambitious as Schlarb’s recent Psychic Temple work. But this time, the grandeur is less in the layers of musical detail than in the expansive explorations of deep, interior spaces. The album’s two short, bona fide “songs,” the mystical ballad “The Great Receiver” and the jazz standard “My Foolish Heart,” are generous in their own, quiet way—”My Foolish Heart” looks for the sophistication in simplicity, and the negative space of “The Great Receiver” hum with cosmic ambience.
But these tracks alternate with yet more probing meditations, seemingly free-floating improvisations anchored deep down by musical stasis: the overtone-rich, iridescent drone of the opening title track, or the slowly looping, ruminating harmonies of “The Fear of Death Is the Birth of God.” Making the Saint finds freedom in simplicity and, in the emotional and spiritual resonances it evokes, turns out to be not quite so simple after all.
Making the Saint is now available to own as a digital download, on CD, or on an LP record, pressed to white vinyl.
Buy it here.
LA-based Imma Almourzaeva illustrates “The Great Receiver” from Chris Schlarb’s LP Making the Saint. Watch below.
May 20th, 2014 , by John Beeler
Making the Saint, the new LP from Chris Schlarb, comes out Tuesday May 27th, but you can hear it – and watch some of it – now.
LA-based Imma Almourzaeva illustrates “The Great Receiver” from Chris Schlarb’s forthcoming LP Making the Saint. Imma, whose forte is more often animated gifs, captures the distinct pacing of the song by showing the flight of a bird from birth to departure.
NPR debuted the video last week. You can also watch it below.
SPIN is streaming the entire album on their website as of today. Writer Christ Martin calls it a “wide-armed hug.” Listen here.
The album, out on Tuesday May 27th, is available for preorder here.
April 8th, 2014 , by
Praised across the board for his sophisticated approach to merging eccentric pop, jazz, soul, and avant-garde experimentation on his 2013 Psychic Temple II, Chris Schlarb returns in May, 2014 with a new, more laid-back LP entitled Making The Saint.
Recorded in a cabin in the San Bernardino mountains of California, Making The Saint is Chris’ attempt at making a “small” record. Read more about that here. You can preorder the record in CD or LP here.
Trailer, with some visuals of the cabin and recording, below.
October 18th, 2013 , by John Beeler
“It’s very humbling to me,” guitarist/composer Chris Schlarb says of performing with the members of his Psychic Temple project. “It’s a truly phenomenal band of musicians.”
Schlarb has just set out on a tour of the American Southwest with that ensemble in tow, promoting the release of their second LP, Psychic Temple II, and the Psychic Temple material is very much built to accommodate the virtuosity of his band.
“All the guys in the band are like jazz musicians or can hang on that level. So you’ve got to give them some room to contribute their own thing—you sort of recontextualize this music,” explains Schlarb. While this tour unifies these players as sidemen around the singer-songwriter material from Psychic Temple II, he points out that in their respective musical lives, “Each one of them is a leader of their own project. There’s an honor to that for me, to be in charge for a little while. That also gives me some confidence as an artist.”
Chris Schlarb and Psychic Temple kicked off their tour in Phoenix, AZ this Thursday, followed by a Friday night show on Oct. 18 at High Mayhem in Santa Fe, an Oct. 19 concert at Austin’s Salvage Vanguard Theater, an Oct. 20 date at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton, TX, and on Oct. 30th a performance at Le Corusse Rouge in Bakersfield, CA.
“I think anybody who likes the material on the record,” says Schlarb, “or any of my material at all, will like what we’re doing—it’s sort of the most ambitious large-scale work for an ensemble that I’ve ever put together.
July 18th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Live near Oshkosh? Love good music? This festival is for you.Read the Rest...
July 16th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Out now on Asthmatic Kitty Records, Chris Schlarb’s Psychic Temple II is an auteurist outing with an all-star cast.
Led by composer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Schlarb, the Psychic Temple project brings together an enormous range of artists from the musical underground: singer-songwriters Ray Raposa of Castanets, Nedelle Torrisi of Cryptacize, Aaron Roche and Sufjan Stevens; Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens; Death guitarist Paul Masvidal; Xiu Xiu and Nels Cline bassist Devin Hoff; drummers Tabor Allen and Andrew Pompey; trumpeter Kris Tiner; and many more.
“Each one of them is a leader of their own project,” Schlarb says of his Psychic Temple lineup. It’s “an honor,” he says, “for me to be in charge for a little while.”
Psychic Temple II was recently chosen as a First Listen by NPR.org, who said that Schlarb’s “restless creativity has no choice but to continuously seek new worlds” and praised his “unfailing determination to make things happen.” Schlarb himself describes the Psychic Temple project’s sophomore out as “the most ambitious large scale work for an ensemble that I’ve ever put together,” but the effect of the music is more important to him than its complexity.
“If somebody wants to jump into it on a songwriting level or a structural level, they can listen to it and say, ‘Wow, that’s really neat, these chords are really interesting,’ or, ‘These time signatures are jumping around,’” says Schlarb, “but I’d also like to reach them on a sentimental level. It doesn’t just exist to be difficult.”
Instead, Schlarb says, “I really challenged myself with this record, to write stuff that was a little more intricate and complex and detailed, but still allowed to live and breathe.” The result merges the sophistication of jazz or chamber music with an unpretentious indie-rock atmosphere.
Psychic Temple II is available in CD, LP, and digital download packages starting July 16.
July 8th, 2013 , by John Beeler
“Schlarb can write a jazz tune with the best of them, but on an album that ostensibly crosses boundaries separating jazz, chamber and indie music, his restless creativity has no choice but to continuously seek new worlds,” writes Lars Gotrich, for NPR’s First Listen, about the new album from Chris Schlarb.
Hear Psychic Temple II early and in its entirety on NPR here. If you like what you hear, please comment on the post on NPR and share it with friends.
The album is out next week, and you can order it in CD, LP, MP3, and a limited edition collector’s box, here.
June 19th, 2013 , by John Beeler
Chris Schlarb wanted his new video, “Seventh House,” to be more than a commercial for the record.
“The idea of making a video for promotional purposes only doesn’t hold any interest for me,” Schlarb says. Instead, he enlisted director Sahale Jensen to create a short film that would expand on the themes of the song and of the intricately constructed full-length album, Psychic Temple II.
In keeping with his role firmly at the helm of the Psychic Temple project, Schlarb was closely involved with the conception of the video, starting with the choice of Jensen for the director’s chair. “I came across a video that Sahale did for Aaron Roche and was intrigued by her work. We kept in touch over the years,” says Schlarb, “and she was the first person I thought of for this project.”
What followed was an involved discussion of the song and its lyrical imagery, over a series of lengthy telephone conversations. “We met and collaborated virtually,” says Jensen, “but never have actually met in person!”
The video takes the mystical and astrological imagery of the song and makes them unsettlingly literal. “Pisces in the Seventh House,” chants the song’s eerie vocal, and the Seventh House becomes a seemingly ordinary suburban home. The duality represented by the Pisces, explains Jensen, becomes the main character and a sinister doppelgänger, both played by first-time film actress Annea Umayam.
“We shot north of Seattle in a small town called Sedro-Wolley,” Jensen says, “at my grandparents’ house. I knew the look of their homey and comfortable house could help sell the disturbing juxtaposition when something more sinister decides to show up. We shot over a two day period with a very small four man crew.”
The result is a video that combines a very simple look with disorientingly cryptic content. Schlarb points to the gaps and omissions in the films of Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock, but also to the negative space built into his own music. “Don’t give everything,” he says. “Leave some mystery.”
Ultimately, says Schlarb, “I am very proud of the work and love that went into this video. It was an honor for me to work on it with Sahale and her crew.”
May 2nd, 2013 , by John Beeler
Chris Schlarb’s new album, Psychic Temple II, arrives July 16th but you can hear the album’s first single now. “‘Til I Die” is Chris Schlarb et al’s take on one of the only Beach Boy songs written entirely by Brian Wilson (Wikipedia entry on the song here).