Though most frequently involved in free-form, free jazz, and experimental rock projects, Chris Schlarb does not have an easily defined career. Hailing from Southern California, Schlarb is a musician, writer, and producer, as well as the founder and owner of Sounds Are Active, a label specializing in progressive jazz, experimental, and electronic music. Schlarb is also a frequent collaborator, working with Sufjan Stevens, Ikie Owens, Lynn Johnston, and Castanets, among others. In 1999, Schlarb co-founded a free-form group with Orlando Greenhill and Steve Richardson called Create (!). The ensemble, which has grown to become a collective of over 50 musicians, performs at jazz festivals and also hosts Create (!) workshops throughout Los Angeles County. Four years later, Schlarb created and curated NOTICE, a series of improvisational performances that attempted to combine jazz, electronic, classical, noise rock, hip-hop, and other modern music.
After the last NOTICE production in 2004, Schlarb turned his attention to performing and collaborating with two installation artists, Megan and Murray McMillan, for an event called 27 Acknowledged and Sanctioned People. During the same year, he joined Tom Steck to form I Heart Lung, a free jazz outfit that toured the United States with Castanets and Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice in 2005. In addition to his work with I Heart Lung in 2005, Schlarb also released a solo album, Ideas Without Numbers, under the name Xn. Schlarb would also go on to expand his résumé in 2006 when he produced and released 40 BANDS/80 MINUTES, a documentary about Los Angeles' underground experimental rock scene directed by Sean Carnage. In 2007, I Heart Lung released their first full-length album, Interoceans; Schlarb released his second solo album (though the first under his real name), Twilight & Ghost Stories, the same year. In 2010 he gathered together a 29-musician ensemble to do his bidding on the ambitious Psychic Temple album. Schlarb cited Bill Laswell's collective group Material as his inspiration for bringing together unlikely combinations of musicians such as legendary punk bassist Mike Watt and ethereal experimental vocalist Juliana Barwick to work together on his long-form compositions. He followed in 2013 with Psychic Temple II, a more pop-friendly follow-up that included covers of Joe Jackson, Frank Zappa, and Brian Wilson scattered among his original works. In 2014, the comparatively subdued Making the Saint, appeared, an album of drony guitar meditations recorded in a remote cabin. ~ Katherine Fulton