By the time Chris Schlarb was 24 he was a husband and proud father of two children. Less than two years later, he was divorced and seeing his children once a week on court-approved visits. He quit his steady job as an insurance adjuster, altogether abandoned music, and with his final paycheck bought a beat-up Volkswagen van. He picked up a graveyard shift at UPS but when the van broke down a month later, he was forced to file for unemployment. It was then, on an overcast Wednesday in the middle of February 2003, that he set up two microphones to capture the sound of the rain outside his near-empty apartment in Long Beach. That spontaneous idea gradually snowballed into a project that would cross four years, correspondence with dozens of musicians, and more than two hundred hours of work.
Asthmatic Kitty Records is proud to present Twilight and Ghost Stories, the debut solo album from musician and producer Chris Schlarb. A work of personal identity and deep catharsis, Twilight & Ghost Stories is a dense 40-minute modern composition featuring a disparate cross-section of musicians from the avant-garde, independent folk, jazz and electronic communities. A creative and accomplished jazz guitarist, Chris Schlarb cut his teeth producing hip-hop tracks, teaching music workshops and co-founding the free music collective Create (!). In 2004 he collaborated with installation artists Megan and Murray McMillan, and with fine artist Tom Steck formed I Heart Lung, which Tiny Mix Tapes called "some of the most energetic free-jazz to spit out of America." Spanning all of these endeavors, Twilight & Ghost Stories finds Schlarb playing acoustic piano, organ, electric and acoustic guitar as well as tapes and percussion.
Calling upon a diverse number of collaborators, Chris began to solicit musical phrases, incidental conversations, stories and textures. Few artists were offered more than a vague description of the project and none of the artists involved heard the final mix until the album's release. Mick Rossi, percussionist and pianist in the Philip Glass Ensemble, sent a duet recording with saxophonist John O' Gallagher; Dave Easley, who as part of the Brian Blade Fellowship once backed Joni Mitchell, provides a pedal steel guitar that synchronizes perfectly with Sebastian Krueger's voice and acoustic guitar. Fellow Asthmatic Kitty artists also contributed: Sufjan Stevens' emotive piano is bookended by Triptych Myth's Tom Abbs and nmperign's Bhob Rainey; Half-Handed Cloud's John Ringhofer's voice, piano and percussion echoes throughout as does vocalist Liz Janes; and Castanets frontman Ray Raposa spins out a brief guitar duet as Curious Digit/Royal Trux alum Parker Paul whispers a short story about gothic middle America.
Ten minutes in, Schlarb cross-fades a recording of his son's in-womb heartbeat with white noise and together they become one indistinguishable sound. Elsewhere, Black Mountain's Stephen McBean muses inaudibly about music boxes as Schlarb's own children scream and play in the background, bassoons droning and bass clarinets chattering all the while. Schlarb layers these taped conversations and background ambiance as a way of reframing moments in time from their indigenous chronology. He does the same with geographic location. Recorded on the streets of Montmarte, Paris, inside an Icelandic home designed by Albert Speer, and throughout the United States, Schlarb assembled his orchestra of strangers for the last time as he recorded the final mix in his Long Beach apartment on June 1st, 2007.
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It may not be a full-fledged LP, but All Delighted People is probably my favourite of Sufjan's works. Without an overaching album theme to tie the songs together, it felt like Sufjan was free to experiment on each track and give them their own unique sound. And because of that (and Sufjan's talent), every track on there is a standout track. Angkasawan