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Sir Richard Bishop - Intermezzo

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Artist: Sir Richard Bishop

Album: Intermezzo

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Jul. 2, 2012

A title like Intermezzo suggests that this album by former Sun City Girl guitarist Sir Richard Bishop could be considered as little more than an interlude between two more worthwhile releases. Don’t be fooled: If anything, Intermezzo is a compendium and concentration of the myriad facets of Bishop’s remarkable talents, a Bishop album in excelsis.

Musically, Bishop is very much a magpie, flitting from genre to genre, continent to continent with ease and enthusiasm. “Dust and Spurs” is a feisty acoustic blast that dances across the Middle East with an occasional nod toward Appalachia, its frenetic notes and clear tone showcasing Bishop’s impressive control and virtuosity, all within the tight confines of just over two minutes. In comparison, “Reversionary Tactics” is traversed by echoes of obscure American great Sandy Bull, with Bishop sliding notes that seem to dance and sway in the ether out of a reverberating electric guitar, again for a tantalizingly brief period. Also clocking in at just over two minutes is “Dance of the Cedars,” beamed in straight from North Africa and with a similar starry-eyed earnestness to the music of Agitation Free’s Malesch album, only much more sparse. Intermezzos indeed, these tracks feel like sketches, the kind of quick exercises Bishop might chuck out to relieve the intensity of a live show (and indeed, Ideologic Organ’s Stephen O’Malley references the intensity and charm of Bishop’s live shows in the album’s liner notes). Yet, there is nothing of the throwaway about any of them, with “Dance of the Cedars” benefiting from some measured studio embellishments, and all three carrying their creator’s verve across to the listener.

Bishop really adds meat to Intermezzo’s bones with the Robbie Basho-esque epic “Inner Redoubt,” on which he patiently twists open-ended acoustic guitar solos around one another, creating an elegiac haze of balmy, elegant folk. Again, it’s hard not to marvel at Bishop’s dexterity, but on this track more than any of the others, it’s the emotional resonance of the composition that stands out. And, just as effectively, he can change tacks abruptly and embark on a jaunty jig in the form of “Haunt Tulip,” with its hints of Django Reinhardt and upbeat tempo. Meanwhile, “Dhumavati” and “Khajuraho” both carry debts to the raga style Bishop explored so ecstatically on 2007’s While my Guitar Violently Bleeds, resonating deeply with the spiritual mysticism of a Ravi Shankar or a Pandit Pran Nath.

Where he needs to take his time, Bishop will linger over notes and effects. Conversely, he can fire off notes at breakneck speed with casual insouciance. Sometimes these tracks evoke the “sketch” approach of The Durutti Column’s Vini Reilly, at others they carry the weight and sophistication of an Indian sitar master. It may feel like a compilation, or a showcase, but Intermezzo is never incoherent or disjointed. In fact, it feels like we are in the privileged position of witnessing a great guitarist running ideas out of his head and onto his fretboard.

By Joseph Burnett

Other Reviews of Sir Richard Bishop


While My Guitar Violently Bleeds

Polytheistic Fragments

The Freak of Araby

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Find out more about Editions Mego

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