While My Guitar Violently Bleeds
WHILE MY GUITAR VIOLENTLY BLEEDS
(LP/CD Locust Music, 2007)
Sir Richard Bishop forces one to alter that hoary cliché to 'jack of all trades, master of . . . damn near all.' Renowned for his mercurial guitar-playing over the last 26 years with Seattle ethnodelic legends Sun City Girls, Bishop has wrought a distinguished solo canon as well. He combines soulfulness and advanced technique with a panache that's nearly unrivaled among today's guitarists. On albums like 1998's Salvador Kali and 2004's Improvika, Bishop strums spiritual with incantatory ragas, free-folk excursions, crystalline flamenco flourishes, ruddy Appalachian folk, Middle Eastern-tinged fantasias and gypsy arabesques. This is eclecticism done with respect and third-eye-dilating filigree; his compositions attain a sepia-tinted wistfulness and a psychedelic complexity. Bishop either practices his instrument with monk-like devotion or is just preternaturally gifted. Maybe it's both. 'Zurvan,' the shortest of While My Guitar Violently Bleeds' three tracks, kicks off the disc with Django Reinhardt-into-Robbie Basho acoustic-guitar pyrotechnics of florid beauty and flamboyant drama. 'Smashana' fades into earshot with amorphous electric guitar and bass feedback, reminiscent of Acid Mothers Temple's calm-before-the-maelstrom intros. You can feel an ominous mood and sinister energy gathering strength, but this cut mostly glowers at a slow boil, fraying nerves rather than shattering bones. It's an interesting departure for Bishop, if not a revelation. The album ends with the 25-minute 'Mahavidya,' which begins with tambura drones and obliquely meditative, plangent acoustic guitar. The tambura serves as the wool for this sonic Persian carpet, the guitar the intricately detailed embroidery stitched into it. This could be the music you hear as you enter the ultimate stage of Buddhist enlightenment. As this epic track progresses, the intensity of the fingerpicking waxes and wanes (but mostly waxes) because playing this rapid and spidery has to be exhausting. A wholly magical and magically holy conclusion to another Bishop gem.
- Dave Segal (in OC Weekly)