On Chris Schlarb’s “Psychic Temple”

posted by Tobias Carroll

Psychic Temple is the latest album from guitarist Chris Schlarb, a musician whose name had previously come up in the context of assorted improvisational and avant-garde projects. After a glowing review from Christopher Weingarten, I gave Psychic Temple a listen — and then another, and then another. The short version: it’s a terrific album, blissed-out instrumental work that evokes the likes of Bill Frisell, John Martyn, and Penguin Cafe Orchestra. (As a side note: I am presently kicking myself for missing out on the Kickstarter campaign for an LP version of this album, as it’s a work that cries out for late-afternoon turntable-based listening.)

Taking the track-by-track route, “I Can Live Forever If I Slowly Die” puts a drifting guitar at the forefront, then overlays it with Kris Tiner’s trumpet and a muted chorus of voices. With “Dream State > Police State,” the album moves on to a more conventional strummed guitar & wordless vocal section. (It’s not dissimilar to the final Sun City Girls album Funeral Mariachi.) From there, the song moves into a more pastoral section, eventually segueing into “Daughters of Ursa Major.” There, the interplay is between guitar and violin; four minutes in, a haunting vocal section emerges. (Given her credit on the album, I’d be willing to wager that this is one Julianna Barwick’s contributions.) Tiner’s trumpet returns for “White Dove in the Psychic Temple,” which ends the album on a note that’s both expansively blissed-out and neatly intimate.