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Is Sir Richard Bishop just another virtuoso or something more powerful, like a magus or sorcerer? Either way, he is a lord of guitar among the many greats, and his first Drag City release, Polytheistic Fragments, gathers the glittering slivers of his sound into a divine procession. It goes without saying that Polytheistic Fragments is an instrumental release. In the tradition of his classic debut, Salvador Kali, this new record features equal amounts of improvisation and composition. Sir Richard's powers lie in his ability to captivate with just the sound of his guitar, but he doesn't completely abandon studio processes, which allow Polytheistic Fragments to communicate a greater wholeness: all Sir Rick, all the time, if you will. As a member of Sun City Girls and co-founder of the Sublime Frequencies label, Sir Richard Bishop is a comfortable traveler in the vast landscape of ethno-musical tradition.
Polytheistic Fragments, Sir Richard Bishop's first release for Drag City, is a kaleidoscopic manifesto of instrumental solo guitar. Bishop was initially renowned as the rapid-fire guitarist for the Sun City Girls, a world-trekking and genre-busting trio who broke up when percussionist Charles Gocher passed away in early 2007. The Girls' music has greatly influenced many of the so-called "freak folk" acts of recent years. And in its own way, so has Bishop's solo debut from 1998, the twisting and lovely Salvador Kali. It's a godsend that Bishop's amped up his solo work since 2005, with a half-dozen releases on small labels, including his own. When you can play as well as Bishop, it becomes about what you choose to play, and here, Bishop reigns in his ethno-everything abilities to focus on melody and a pure love for playing the guitar. Half the songs are improvised and half composed, and there are equal parts mysticism and humor throughout. This is easily one of the most rewarding albums of the year. --Mike McGonigal