Chris Schlarb’s Psychic Temple embark on their first new album since the sprawling, ambitious Houses of The Holy, a 4-way collaboration with Cherry Glazer, Chicago Underground Trio, The Dream Syndicate, and Xoloanxinxo. In the interim, Schlarb has been plenty busy — letting out a duo album with Chad Taylor, recording a second outing in his covers series (this time tackling “Planet Caravan”) and running his label Big Ego while producing works from Dave Easley, Maria Elena Silva, mssv, and more. The new record is no less rooted in the realms of collaboration than any other facet of his recent catalog, and this time the focus falls to synth composer and multi-instrumentalist Lisa Bella Donna. Alongside Lisa, quite a few other familiar friends are on board as well including members of Cherry Glazer, mssv, Dave Easley, and Guma, but Bella Donna’s synths remain the tying line. She blends the Temple’s jazz explorations with a sonic ripple of Kosmiche and space rock that’s not always present in the band’s oeuvre.
Paring way back from the four sides of Houses of the Holy, the album explores two longform compositions more in the vein of Chris’ recent work on the Planet Caravan outing. Along with the assembled players and Bella Donna, the record features a choir that adds an ethereal quality to the proceedings. “Approaching Sunset,” is marked by the soft scrape of Isaiah Morfin’s sax and Steph Richards’ trumpet lines, opening up into a cosmic midsection that finds Bella Donna’s synths opening the hatch on the planetarium of sound. “The Ninth Wave” embraces the choral arrangements more than the first, cracking into view with the dawn light tenderness of acoustic strings and vocal float. It too is marked by the tangle of Morfin and Richard’s horns, but on the whole finds itself in a much more pastoral vein, unfurling with an amber glow that radiates out of the speakers. At this point, any ensemble arranged by Schlarb should have high expectations, but like his contemporary John Dwyer’s recent outings, each ensemble is put together with the skill of a painter choosing a palette. A Universe Regards Itself takes the tempest and launches it into the outer Nebulae — a heady entry into ’23’s jazz greats.
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