Music Reviews


Opening Up (Sounds are Active). Review by Stein Haukland.


Opening Up

Sounds are Active

Xn. is another project from Long Beach, CA experimentalist Chris Schlarb, this time focusing on a short series of contemplative and held-back compositions. Encapsulated by the two musically related “Neon” tracks (“Neon Pink and the Five Guitar Dream” and “Neon Purple Sparrow and the Red Room Whisper System”), Opening Up explores inward repetition, contrasting with the progressive nature that has defined some of Schlarb’s earlier work. The droning fragility of “Lullaby for Elisha” suggests that this is not a unanimous success, but Opening Up still proves to be another interesting and engaging disc from Schlarb’s own Sounds are Active label.

The two “cover” tracks on here (both altered to the extreme) are stand-outs. Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” has been given a relaxed, pulsating nature that underlines the original’s quiet beauty, while the drawn-out, slumbering version of Neil Young’s “Round & Round” is the best of the lot, the melody providing a wonderful vehicle for Schlarb’s contemplative cautiousness and meandering experimentalism. Performed mainly on electric guitars, with added effects from glasses, turntables and electronics, Opening Up glides by with few obvious obstacles, but with an eye to the slight missteps that will surprise the cautious listener. It’s a fragile and endearing EP, once again demonstrating Schlarb’s willingness to stretch the boundaries of what he can and cannot do.

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