On this limited vinyl split LP, Sun City Girls icon Sir Richard Bishop plays alongside another avant-garde guitarist, Ava Mendoza. Mendoza is a committed improvisor, rooted in wild and noisy punk experimentation and Bishop is the scene statesman who hasn’t forgotten how to freak out. They take a side each and the results, as recorded on Ivory Tower (Hanuman), are rich, abrasive and strange solo guitar playing.
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Sir Richard Bishop, the Sun City Girls alum and innovator behind the phenomenon known as Knighting Yourself, is feeling breezy. Is that a thing? Does Sir Richard Bishop’s guitar improv get jangly? Should it? On “She Loves You”, the opener from his split with pal Ava Mendoza, he pulls out a gorgeous guitar riff, one that sounds bathed in sunshine and full of fine cognac. It disappears for “Safe House”, a more formal Bishop track (fast ‘n’ loose guitar movements that put the frets into overtime), but that freewheeling feel remains for these nimble tunes, including the record’s note-tangled title track (which sounds like Loren Connors after a restless night) and “Abydos”, whose lightning-fast pace is compensated with riffs almost recognisable as surf -- at the very least, they’re super, uh, fun, which is a thing Sir Richard Bishop does now.
Ava Mendoza takes up side B, and the experimentalist a la Unnatural Ways is in more fractured form. Her work opens to the shambles of warped tapes, full of accidental reeling chime sounds and momentary noise shimmers. “Motor Unwind Part 1” sounds pretty much as described, with metallic sounds that would be welcome in the tl;dr version of a Sunn O))) album. The sound collage gives way to the dusty guitar waltz of “Shadowtrapping”, which fits more traditionally with Bishop’s side: it’s a gorgeous, meandering trip through whatever distorted riff Mendoza can brew up next, though it eventually leads into proper song as a voice comes in -- though it’s soon sacrificed for an undeniably blistering solo. The joy in Mendoza’s side of this split is in its ability to flit between a six minute epic and a randomly slotted selection of tape sounds (here comes the sequel: it’s “Motor Unwind Part 2”!). “Kiss of Fire” is just as enjoyable a guitar excursion as “Shadowtrapping”, feeling for narrative drive while also sounding slickly accidental.
They make a good team.
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