Guitarist/composer/cult leader Chris Schlarb makes great music. The work that he has done over the years with his band, Psychic Temple, have melded jazz, rock, and noise influences together into some new creation that is wholly engrossing. One of the latest of Schlarb’s numerous projects is a soundtrack he put together for his friend Jay Tholen’s new video game, Dropsy (out next Thursday on Steam), which is what he describes as essentially a new Psychic Temple album (though not to supplant the upcoming Psychic Temple III which is still somewhere around the bend). What results is what Schlarb describes as the “jazziest” thing he’s ever done.
The format of the soundtrack is certainly present. These are short songs made for short snippets. The limitations of the structure are most apparent, yet these spatial constraints serve to make these songs more economical. The mood of each piece is immediate and the musicianship from everyone in this band — pianist and violinist Philip Glen, saxophonist Jeremy Trezona (who is set to release his own album, Phantoms, which Schlarb mixed and is available fore pre-order now, by the way), bassist Anthony Shaddock, drummers Tabor Allen and Sheridan Riley — fit extremely well together as they transform like chameleons through the assorted sound pallettes that video game music entails. There are certainly acoustic moments throughout the album that can sound like a conventional (whatever that means) jazz album and there are certainly very electronic songs that fit squarely in the pocket of 8-bit.
It’s a bit of a ride for an album but every Chris Schlarb album is, and it’s why he’s always worth following into whatever musical direction he takes. A musical cult leader made a jazz album for a game about an armless clown that still manages to spread hugs. It’s pretty crazy, and it sounds amazing. It’s totally unexpected, which for Schlarb and the Psychic Temple is pretty perfect.
Chris Schlarb’s Dropsy Soundtrack is available now digitally and on vinyl at Joyful Noise Recordings.
Nextbop Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dean-Harris hosts the modern jazz radio show, The Line-Up, Fridays at 9pm CST on 91.7 FM KRTU San Antonio and is also a contributing writer to DownBeat Magazine and the San Antonio Current.