Published May 23, 2014It's people like Chris Schlarb that keep music interesting. The California nomad, under the influence of Bill Laswell, has been known to assemble collectives numbering upwards of 25 to 50 musicians to fulfil his ecstatic free-jazz and experimental pop visions. Contrasting the approach for his latest album, Making the Saint, Schlarb left the psychic temple for the solitude of an allegedly haunted cabin in San Bernardino, with the goal of making a simpler record. The result is an unpolished gem of spiritual ambiance.
The title track is a 20-minute long organ-esque drone, with contemplative electric guitar improvised spaciously overtop. It evokes a sense of higher power, a reflection of our floating in space. The other long-form composition, "The Fear of Death Is the Birth of God," is more layered, with a repeating electric guitar phrase as the base, over which moaning strings and perky signal processing glide about. Rounding out the track listing is "Great Receiver", a poignant acoustic guitar ballad, and "My Foolish Heart," a brief but thoughtful acoustic guitar duet. Under intense scrutiny, the album invites deep spiritual reflection, but Making the Saint works just as well purring away in the background as you read a book on a lazy summer morning, blending into the slight rustling of leaves and tinkling of wind chimes in the real world. (Asthmatic Kitty)