Multi-instrumentalist and composer Chris Schlarb creates another captivating musical landscape on ‘IV’. This new release is the fourth in a series of psychedelic and experimental pop and rock albums by Psychic Temple, this time featuring indie songwriter Avi Buffalo on guitar, Chad Taylor from the avant-garde jazz duo Chicago Underground on drums and jazz musician Dave Easley on pedal steel guitar.
‘IV’ doesn’t sound like it was made in 2017, and that’s one of its greatest appeals. The record proves that music can be melodic and accessible, while not compromising on depth and versatility. It follows in the tradition of Schlarb’s previous work, blending elements of progressive and psychedelic rock, jazz, soul and modern pop, all with the precision of a classical composition. The result is a dreamy atmosphere that soothes the soul and invites us to explore faraway dimensions. The motif of dreams reappears throughout the album.
In an effort perhaps to create a more international sound, ‘IV’ abandons the folk and country components of its predecessor. It’s not easy to tell if this departure is intentional. However, with British guitarist and singer Terry Reid on board, it’s possible that some of the inspiration also came from overseas. Reid contributes his vocals to three songs on the album, most notably ‘Turn Off the Lights’, a relaxing tune with a main guitar riff that sounds like sitar, adding to the track’s meditational feel.
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Another highlight is ‘Wait for Me’, where the rhythm section does an outstanding job, alternating between different tempos. It also features some pleasant female backing vocals. ‘Dream Dictionary’ has a catchy chorus that could even be heard on a mainstream radio station. ‘Nazarene Dream’ has a charming bluesy soul vibe, and its calming melody can make you dream without making you fall asleep. The title is a play on the phrase “American Dream”, and the lyrics draw a thought-provoking parallel between the disciples of Jesus and the fans of today’s celebrities.
“I was alone and I was surrounded / Never had a dream to call my own / Sleepless nights / I found passage in the dark / A message in the light,” Schlarb sings in ‘SOS’, an ode to freedom. “SOS, I’ve got to run, I’ve got to fly / SOS, If I don’t leave I’m gonna die,” the chorus goes, and the heartfelt guitar solo that follows helps the listener believe that they can travel wherever they wish to be.
‘IV’ is the kind of record that’s best enjoyed with eyes closed, giving all of its layers the attention they deserve. Schlarb’s extraordinary talent as a songwriter and composer is apparent, and so are his arranging and producing skills. He succeeds at fine tuning the level of complexity in his music so that it still sounds effortless and light-hearted, having the potential to engage a wide audience.
This LP is one of Schlarb’s best works, if not the very best, to date. His choice of brilliant musicians helped him create ten original songs that are as memorable as they are easy to listen to. ‘IV’ could have been made several decades ago, and it’s guaranteed to stay interesting musically for many years to come.
‘IV’ is out now via Joyful Noise Recordings.