It can be tempting to describe the interplay of certain musicians as “telepathic.” But that might be an unnecessarily supernatural term. The best musicians don’t read minds, after all. They do something far simpler, something much more down to earth. They listen. They absorb. And then they respond. Music – especially improvised music – is an exchange between the players, a give-and-take. It’s a gradually unfolding conversation that, at its best, reveals a hidden layer. Or maybe a whole hidden universe.
The record you now hold in your hands is one of those conversations. On Time No Changes, Chris Schlarb and Chad Taylor invite the listener to eavesdrop on a musical dialogue that blossoms over the course of 40 enveloping minutes. The album was recorded in a single session at BIG EGO in Long Beach, California, where Schlarb has been dreaming up various parallel dimensions for the past decade or so, either with his always evolving Psychic Temple collective or with an ever-expanding cast of characters drawn from various SoCal scenes.
Taylor, of course, is best known for his work with Rob Mazurek in the Chicago Underground Duo — though that long-running project is just the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to his ongoing explorations. Taylor and Mazurek recently contributed to Psychic Temple’s sprawling Houses of the Holy double LP, backing Schlarb on a side of gorgeous orchestral jazz.
With Schlarb on 6- and 12-string acoustic guitars (plus subtle keyboard accents) and Taylor on drums (plus mbira interludes), the most obvious touchstones for Time No Changes are Sandy Bull and Billy Higgins’ collaborations, which fearlessly crossed currents and blew minds back in the 1960s. With sharp simplicity, Bull called those long improvisations Blends; they blended not only a variety of musical concepts (raga, folk, jazz, etc.), but also two keen musical imaginations. Bull and Higgins were certainly listening to one another, sending and receiving transmissions from moment to moment.
A somewhat under-appreciated aspect of those Bull/Higgins Blends is their unabashed looseness. They’re far from perfectly rendered; the thread is sometimes lost entirely. For Schlarb, that was an inspiration in the making of Time No Changes. “Listening back, there were a few moments here and there when I felt a little self-conscious,” he remembers. “Like, ‘Oh man… I fall out of time!’ Or ‘I flubbed that picking pattern!’ Then I went back to listen to Sandy and Billy and remembered how fucked up and beautiful that album was.” In other words, Bull and Higgins weren’t interested in perfection. They were interested in flow.
In her recent book Transcendent Waves, sound healing practitioner Lavender Suarez describes the “flow state” as a “trancelike space of deep focus” where “we can create freely, letting go of ego and self-criticism.” That’s the vibe that you’ll get throughout Time No Changes, as Schlarb and Taylor glide through two spontaneously generated 20-minute song suites. Taylor’s sensitive playing is fluid and forward moving, delivering a feel that’s free flying without ever losing momentum. Schlarb, playing in the EEEEBE tuning used by Stephen Stills and Bruce Palmer, floats down this rhythmic river, finding mystical modalities and luminous melodies along the way.
Throughout, there’s an easy, warm rapport between the two musicians. They’re not trying to impress one another with flashy technique or unnecessary embellishments. But the results are impressive, nonetheless — even to the players themselves. “The OGs return!” Taylor exclaims at the end of Side A. You’re very likely to agree with his sentiment. - Tyler Wilcox, Longmont, Colorado
released May 7, 2021
Chris Schlarb - 6- and 12-string acoustic guitar, Moog synthesizer, Hammond organ
Chad Taylor - drums, mbira
Produced by Chris Schlarb
at BIG EGO, Long Beach, California
Mixed by Chris Schlarb and Devin O’Brien
Recorded Saturday, December 14th, 2019
Engineered by Devin O’Brien
Cover Artwork by Jaime Zuverza
Photographs by Devin O'Brien
Layout by David Woodruff
Mastered by Ronan Chris Murphy
All songs written by Chris Schlarb (Interstellar Music Holdings of the Psychic Temple, ASCAP) and Chad Taylor (CTORB, ASCAP)
supported by 52 fans who also own “Time No Changes”
Now to spin this and take flight.
As a former card carrying member of jamband scene this would have fit nicely back in the late 60's-70's and the late 90's-00's when improvisational jams were king.
This is going to take the scene into another direction with Garcia Peoples.
Vinyl Purchased 10/3/20.
Arrived 10/26/20. The Midnight Toker.