Sir Richard Bishop 

The Freak of Araby

The breadth of sound that experimental rock band Sun City Girls worked with exceeds most groups. Eastern modalities were always part of their approach, but since the dissolution of the ensemble due to percussionist Charles Goucher's death in 2007, guitarist Sir Richard Bishop has moved even deeper into this musical territory.

With his 2007 Drag City debut, Bishop worked out some musical fragments with a variety of guitars, very rarely relying upon other accompaniment. For The Freak of Araby, however, the guitarist has opted for a full band. Considering how each Sun City Girls release included every odd musical source adroitly, Bishop's decision here seems warranted.

Where acoustic sounds dominated at least a portion of his previous band's recordings, The Freak of Araby is overwhelmingly electrified. "Taqasim for Omar," the only track where Bishop goes it alone, isn't acoustic, but it apes that mood through its reverbed, Eastern-flavored, Les Paul-guitar runs. It's also the only slow tempo song on the album — tracks like "Barbary" incorporate as many Eastern arpeggios as possible into rock enthusiasm. None of this, though, can aptly prepare listeners for the blowout that is "Blood Stained Sands." While related melodically, the bleating horns of the album's closer don't have any antecedent here. It serves as a final pronouncement of Bishops' musical ambition, which should not be ignored. (Drag City)


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