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Sir Richard Bishop, "While My Guitar Violently Bleeds"

This album more than lives up to its visceral title. It contains some of Bishop's most intense and downright ugly work to date as a solo artist, but also some his most sublime. Bishop willfully defies the traditionalist and academic conventions of solo-guitar work, offering both examples of controlled musicianship and malevolent noodling.



"Zurvan" begins with the bold strumming that characterizes this album. After those opening measures, Bishop's playing quiets down, modulating with intensity before he launches the tempo into double time. The track's namesake is the aloof, primordial creator god in ancient Persian mythology, but this track is anything but aloof, it's practically manic. It's tough not to imagine some kind of vicious cyclone or insane dervish spinning round in some desert wasteland. But as wild as the playing sounds, it is tightly controlled. Bishop executes lightning quick rhythm changes with ease, holding a chord, then launching back into furious strumming. This see-saw effect amps up the tension until the guitar strings are at the point of breaking.

"Smashana" does not have the speed of "Zurvan," but it certainly keeps the malevolence. Bishop ditches acoustic flourishes here in favor of a slow industrial grind. Multi-tracked electric guitars twang and roar, noodling around randomly without coalescing into any particular structure.

The Mahavidya of the last track are the 10 female aspects of the god Shiva. They personify everything from decay and murder to sublime beauty. It's hard to find a more apt description for Bishop's work, either by himself or with the Sun City Girls. On that continuum "Mahavidya" is definitely on the sublime side, especially after the fit that is "Smashana". The acoustic guitar returns, floating over the gentle drone of a taboura.  Bishop's playing cycles over the same peaceful theme over the course the song's twenty minutes. The beautiful melody and subtle variations gracefully keep the song from sounding stale or simplistic. The notes are plaintive and high, like a supplicant at prayer. The tempo quickens, as in Zurvan, but much more gradually, never reaching the same level of agitated intensity.

Even if the individual pieces of this album very different, the album itself fits quite well into a narrative whole. It builds itself into a fury that dissolves into the droning bliss of the last track. The spite stored in its first half clears out to a tranquil Nirvana. Though Richard Bishop has doubtless more bile to spill, this chapter has at least a peaceful ending.



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