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Chris Schlarb: Jazz, Static, Loss

As the head honcho of experimental noise imprint Sounds Are Active, and a member of free-jazz troupes I Heart Lung and Create (!), it’s a small miracle that Chris Schlarb finds time to do production work for artists like Liz Janes and Bizzart, not to mention raising a nine-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son.

In between all his other projects–and life’s twists and turns–he also found time to create Twilight and Ghost Stories (Asthmatic Kitty), his first solo record under his given name. The album was the byproduct of a divorce that left him alone in an empty house, explains Schlarb. “I know a lot of people that would look at their wife and kids leaving them, unfortunately, as this great liberation, like, ‘Now I can do whatever I want.’ For me, it was the exact opposite. I’m a total family man, I don’t go out, and I don’t drink. To have my kids taken away… it was like somebody died.”

Collaborative in the deepest sense, Twilight and Ghost Stories is built from fragments of sounds submitted by musicians Schlarb admires. A combination of pastoral compositions and disarming field recordings, the record employs talents as varied as Asthmatic Kitty founder Sufjan Stevens, instrument-maker and Matmos collaborator Walter Kitundu, Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth, and Philip Glass Ensemble percussionist Mick Rossi. “Getting in touch with all these friends and strangers allowed me to be validated by them artistically without any of the baggage of my situation,” he explains. “It was a real artistic escape.”

In the five years that it took to complete Twilight and Ghost Stories, Schlarb remarried and came to an amicable custody agreement. This balance of loss and reconciliation shines through on the record. “Throughout the composition, there are things that are very beautiful-sounding, and then there’s this counterpoint of noise or static,” he explains. “It was the same thing for me. There were beautiful moments that happened in the time I was working on this, and a horrible event in my life caused it to exist in the first place. But as it stands now, I can’t really say I would change anything that has happened in the intervening years.”

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