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Sir Richard Bishop – Intermezzo

Ideologic Organ

Originally self-released as a CDr by Sir Richard Bishop in 2011, Intermezzo now gets a vinyl outing courtesy of Stephen O’Malley‘s estimably eclectic Ideologic Organ imprint. Maybe surprisingly for a record with such a limited first release, this is one of those œuvre-spanning albums which provides a snapshot of Bishop’s range and versatility, as each instrumental piece on here pretty much fits into a different genre of (mostly)solo acoustic guitar music.

So once “Dust And Spur”s has rolled straight in from familiarly fantastic Fahey country, and the avant-surge of “Reversionary Tactics” has switched back and forth, Bishop brings out “Dance of the Cedars,” a suitably-titled Arabic waft of Mediterranean air where the pollen and evergreen spires which symbolise so much of the Maghreb and Middle East are conjoured on a weft of clattery polyphony as if transported in by magic carpet. Elsewhere, in faux-Indic mode, “Khajuraho” sidles off for a sitar drone across the sub-continent, while “ Dhumavati” is drifting mournfully high across the plains like a tumbleweed bound eventually for Paris, Texas; but it’s “Cranial Tap” which gets the atonal juices flowing in a gathering whirl of notes scattered from one end of the fretboard to another with gleeful abandon.

“Inner Redoubt” settles firmly into the Fahey/Kottke/Rose school of endlessly-recursing virtuosity, a voloptuous quarter-hour centrepiece of string-picking and strums which teeters ever at the brink of dissonant collapse, spiralling minutely with hypnotic effervescence. It’s as enchanting to listen to as a Dervish is to watch, each turn promising a collapse but instead seemingly defying the laws of gravity – and the relentless demands of time – by a whisker. “Hump Tulip” is an upbeat slice of joyful electric blues, swing-dancing across the scale with flourishes and subtle burrs of distortion, sprinkling its magical reverb like fairy dust on the dancing shoes ’til the toes can’t stop tapping accompaniment to the pure sound of a guitar held gently in the throes of deceptively simple twangular ecstasy.

Intermezzo may not be Sir Richard’s most coherent record as an album, but as a collection it more than adequately demonstrates the breadth of his considerable ability. It’s above all an excellent digest whose parts sum together if not into a whole then at least into a sequence of signature moments whose very difference signifies Bishop’s influences, inventions and accomplishments.

-Richard Fontenoy-

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