Tuesday, November 19, 2013

REVIEW: Chris Schlarb's Twilight and Ghost Stories, 11/01

On November 1, Chris Schlarb presented Twilight and Ghost Stories at the Velaslavasay Panorama. This piece featured improvisation by a large cast of musicians including Mike Watt, Paul Masvidal, Nedelle Torrisi, Aaron Roche, Steuart Liebig, Philip Glenn, Ted Byrnes, Glenn Bach, Tabor Allen, Austin Wintory, Tom Steck, David Moyer, and Chris Schlarb. The music was broken into two sets, with some musicians playing only one of the two, and some playing both.

Both performances began in total darkness, and Schlarb used a charmingly archaic light board to switch on and off lights that were situated near each individual performer. When a performer's light was on, they played. The process reminded me of an indirect, slow-motion Cobra or conduction. The indirect nature of this communication medium offered interesting possibilities, as did the binary nature of simply playing or not playing. Schlarb was attentive to varying the density of the lit musicians, activating smaller ensembles throughout each set. Each set was bookended by Fahey-esque solo acoustic guitar performances by Schlarb, accompanied by lo-fi field recordings. These gave them the feeling of a cyclical narrative, as if some sort of abstract aural story had been told, before returning us to the world of the Panorama.

Anytime I am at the Velaslavasay, I am warmed by how fully the space lends its charm to whatever performance is happening. On the day between Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos, it was the perfect environment to drink a beer and listen to improvised music in the dark.

You can find to the album of Twilight and Ghost Stories on Bandcamp, along with more of Chris Schlarb's music:

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