Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chris Schlarb - Twighlight & Ghost Stories

Chris Schlarb
Twilight & Ghost Stories
(12.2007, Asthmatic Kitty)
Verdict = A Mess of Patchwork Beauty

With Twilight & Ghost Stories, seasoned experimental guitarist Chris Schlarb has sewn together a patchwork quilt that is as comfortable, sentimental and ragged as the one you’ve been draggin’ around since child birth. Employing field recordings, and friend’s recordings along with his own instrumentation and final editing, Twilight & Ghost Stories floats by like a like bright midnight clouds that alternately obscure and reveal the stars that shine behind them. Some of the notable contributors here are Sufjan Stevens, Ray Raposa of Castanets, Half-Handed Cloud and Dirty Projector, Dave Longstreth. There are plenty more contributors as well in a project that took five years to complete, but you would never know it if it wasn’t for their inclusion in the liner notes. In fact the only time I was able to identify someone was when Longstreth’s unmistakable elastic voice surfaces in “Section IV.” Released on Sufjan’s Asthmatic Kitty label, Schlarb is the first among an assumed series of artists to follow that are being labeled “unusual animals.” Schlarb’s work is definitely a departure from the largely pop oriented roster on AK but is not out of place in his light, life affirming delivery. There is a certain air of comfort in the collage that I haven’t heard since The Books debut, Thought For Food. In all its abstraction, Twilight & Ghost Stories maintains a resilient degree of heart and an inviting, humanizing touch that allows the album to employ the sum of its many parts equitably and to great satisfaction. I think the real achievement of the album is its replay value. You can’t just listen to the record once and go. “huh, that was nice,” and move onto the next album in your CD player. Once the album draws you in it becomes necessary to listen to it again and again, not only to dig deeper into the wealthy depth of motifs but also to simply enjoy the record once more. For all of Schlarb’s output elsewhere, Twilight & Ghost Stories is his most assured release to date and a lost gem released late in 2007.

-Mr. Thistle

Chris Schlarb - "Section I"

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