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.j
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).
April 9th, 2013 , by John Beeler
At the intersection of ethereal jazz and intricate folk, composer Chris Schlarb leads Psychic Temple in new directions. Anchored by the interplay of drummers Andrew Pompey and Tabor Allen, Psychic Temple II features an all-star roster united by a single, maniacal vision.
Psychic Temple II arrives July 16th from Asthmatic Kitty Records and fulfills the promise of Schlarb’s four-track, 40-minute maiden voyage by expanding its atmospherics into the realm of pop songcraft. With an ear toward smart, concise songs, II finds only one track stretching over four mintues in length.
A year in the making, the album was assembled with a wide-ranging team of collaborators: singer-songwriters Sufjan Stevens and Ray Raposa (Castanets), Mars Volta keyboardist Ikey Owens, progressive metal guitarist Paul Masvidal (Cynic, Death), bassist Devin Hoff (Xiu Xiu, Nels Cline Singers), vocalist Sarah Negahdari (Happy Hollows, Silversun Pickups), and more.
In celebration of the auteur as cult leader, Psychic Temple II presents surprising reinventions of work by iconoclasts Brian Wilson, Joe Jackson, and Frank Zappa. Unsurprisingly, Schlarb not only wrote and arranged the album’s material, but he produced and engineered it as well, “I admire people who are control freaks,” he says.
March 15th, 2013 , by John Beeler
NightSky, crafted by game designer Nifflas (aka Nicklas), is out now for iPhone and iPad. Described by the Guardian as “ an unusually atmospheric and beautiful set of physics puzzles,” the side-scroller game features a unique soundtrack by our own Chris Schlarb.
Here’s what Chris says about the process of designing a video game soundtrack: “Eventually, Nicklas and I developed a simple music engine that would allow for each game world to contain 4-5 minutes worth of music, consisting of 3-5 short pieces that could be played back in a random order….As Nicklas would create new worlds and puzzles, I would play the early beta versions and write music that reacted to the different environments. I felt that the most important compliment I could provide was to help establish a sense of place.”
Most video games either feature licensed music (ala Grand Theft Auto), or generally skew electronic. Not NightSky. Chris developed an ambient avant-garde jazz soundtrack that is remarkable to listen to while playing. IGN said that the “the fantastic ambient/jazz/electronic soundtrack is good enough to enjoy outside the game.” See more gracious press quotes on Chris’ page here.
November 14th, 2011 , by John Beeler
There are lots of interesting ways to pay for things on the internet. Radiohead came up with the pay-what-you-want method. We iterated with the "Critic-Based Pricing Structure."
Now video game site Indie Royale has one-upped both us and Radiohead and invented a whole new kind of collective payment structure. It includes stars and graphs and besides that, we have no idea how it works but it is an exceptional deal (right now $4.61) for a bundle of superb games.
The bundle includes Night Sky, a platformer by video game designer Nifflas. You will of course recall that our own Chris Schlarb scored the game. And according to the site, his soundtrack is now unlocked!
Why someone hid it in a safe to begin withor how one does that with a digital object is a mystery. No matter, you can now get Schlarb's haunting soundtrack as part of this Indie Bundle. There's only about a day left in the bundle run, so buy quickly here.
June 13th, 2011 , by John Beeler
Chris Schlarb's music has appeared in video games before, but today marks the first time his work appears in handheld form. In a collaboration with game designer Erik Loyer, Schlarb composed an interactive soundtrack for the iPad/iPhone storyapp Strange Rain. The app itself is beautiful and thought-provoking, and Schlarb's music, as always, provides a spacious aural framework for narrative.