Photo by Jack GouldChris Schlarb and Pete Deeble don't want to become rock stars, don't want to get famous, don't want to ride through their Long Beach neighborhoods in shiny new Benzos, don't want to snort nose candy through rolled hundred dollar bills off the naked thighs of gorgeous brown-skinned porn stars, and don't want to have hot guy-on-girl-on-guy action whilst hurtling through the Midwest aboard an impossibly huge, phallic tour bus.
So . . . they're freaks, yes? Maybe—but in a good kinda way.
Schlarb and Deeble, you see, have dedicated themselves to putting out music for the sheer passion of it. Which in and of itself isn't a big deal—jeez, there are hordes of local musicians who do that every weekend. But unlike the legions of like-minded music makers and indie-label owners who fantasize of someday, one day, maybe making it mega, Schlarb and Deeble are all but guaranteed never to have much of an aural impact outside the Snooptown city limits.
The concept behind their new compilation, Jazz, was to gather five largely instrumental Long Beach bands who make music outside the norm—not necessarily jazz music in the traditional sense, either, unless you're a student of the anything-goes Ornette Coleman school—give each a couple of tracks on a CD, and listen to what happens.
"Calling it Jazz was really kind of a punk thing," Deeble explains. "We just as easily could have called it Punk, but 'punk' is overused today, so we went with something more interesting. We use the word more as a framing device, though the music isn't intended to be viewed as the kind of jazz most people think of."
Sidecar, for instance, isn't jazz at all, not even close—more like dreamy, breathy, ethereal new age. One of the combo's two Jazz tracks, "Quadrant 7," actually comes off more annoying than intriguing, and if you buy the compilation expecting to hear actual jazz music, you'll wind up begging for a stray horn bleat during Sidecar's slot. Slippers, meanwhile, make moody, almost loungey cocktail music, sounds to mellow out to after a night of binge drinking or booty-bangin'. Crankcase craft fun, fresh, improvised Grateful Dead-like jams. The Dub Kinetics do a blend of funktified reggae, heavy on groove, adventure and mystery. Dark auras filter in on their "Return of the Congo," where strange percussion sounds create a feeling of being amongst jungle wildlife; the music is played so loose and spontaneous you're never sure where they're taking you. And you like this not-knowing.
And then there's Create (!)—the exclamation point is theirs—the most joyously whacked-out of the five Jazz bands, who open their three-tune segment with some random horn bleatings, as if tuning up, before diving into schizoid drum patterns layered beneath bizarre tribal chanting and trombones and trumpets that grunt and whine as if the people blowing into them were being castrated right there in the studio. Everything beyond that is a freaky, John Zorn-ish amalgam of the unexpected: Latin percussion pumping; instruments that sound like gaggles of infants screaming at one another; weird electronic noodlings; strangled violins; low, rumbling bass lines. Jazz reaches its denouement with Create (!)'s "Angry Elephants and the Silly Circus," which sounds just like the title—spaced-out cartoon music, like a pair of pachyderms boning in a mudpit.
"We're definitely an acquired taste," says Schlarb, who plays guitar and "toys" in Create (!). "I'm sure we've freaked some people out."
But people need to be freaked out every now and then, grabbed by the neck and jerked around until they're made aware there are aural alternatives to what they're hearing on the radio and seeing in clubs. And that, ultimately, is what Jazz is all about.
"Everyone on the comp is creating music that there really isn't a market for," Deeble points out, "but we're making it anyway because we like it. That's the whole idea—let's take these groups that have these little networks of maybe a couple of hundred people who know who they are, put them together, and then we can share one another's networks."
"We're both trying to get eclectic, interesting, non-conformist, non-commercial music out to people," says Schlarb. "That's why Pete and I are doing this stuff together—it's difficult to do by yourself because you'll get beat down day after day. You really have to do it for the love; you want to put out something beautiful. There's too much awful stuff out there now, so why contribute to it?"
A CD-release party for Jazz, with live performances, takes place at Monsoon's Art Cafe, 2751 E. Broadway, Long Beach, (562) 433-6500. Sat., 9 p.m. $5; Jazz is available at Fingerprints Records, 4612 E. Second St., Long Beach, (562) 433-4996; Aron's Records, 1150 N. Highland, Los Angeles, (323) 469-4700; and Rhino Records, 235 Yale Ave., Claremont, (909) 626-7774. Tracks from Jazz can be downloaded at www.soundsareactive.com or www.peterecords.com.
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