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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

July 2, 2009 at 11:04 AM

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Review: Sir Richard Bishop @ the Croc

Posted by Andrew Matson

Visiting from Oakland, Oaxacan and Sir Richard Bishop (using Oaxacan as his Freak of Araby Ensemble) were unbelievably powerful last night at the Crocodile.

What began with ear-piercing, seemingly improvised animal mating calls (animal jazz?) turned into air-tight Eastern-sounding compositions, the latter starring Sir Richard's truly spectacular guitar playing, a noir version of American surf-rock (think Dick Dale) married to what I understand are Egyptian song styles.

The crazy one-two punch was terrifying and majestic, like getting sucked beneath a tidal wave, dying, and then suddenly finding yourself alive on its crest, riding the giant with a jarringly serene view of the world.

If you've never ridden a tidal wave, imagine violently vomiting and then shuddering through deep relaxation.

As performed last night, "Essaouira," still my favorite track on Sir Richard Bishop's excellent new "Freak of Araby" album:

More written review with videos and photos after the jump.

______________________________


First, Oaxacan. The official lineup would look like this:

Amy Friebertshauser (vocals, electronics)
Mike Guarino (drums, percussion)
Derek Monypeny (guitar)

But I had it more like this:

Amy (pterodactyl)
Mike (horse)
Derek (banshee and dolphin)

As the video shows, Oaxacan could be extremely minimalist and quiet, but the Crocodile audience stayed back from the stage and guarded their ears frequently because most of the set was shrieking, pummeling, rise-and-fall sound washes that averaged must-wear-earplugs loudness.

sir richard bishop crocodile 002.jpg

sir richard bishop crocodile 006.jpg

Mike Guarino was amazing on drums, a scarily nimble earthquake doing quick splits and epic damage. At one point, he played a cymbal with a bow and it made an underwater sound. He could have scored a movie all by himself. A movie about hurricanes, maybe.

I was completely wrapped up in Oaxacan, but one of my friends wasn't, and went outside because it was "just too loud." I enjoyed watching several audience members' discomfort, guessing they didn't know the same band was about to switch its style to "practised, exact, and supremely listenable," and appreciated Oaxacan's extreme approach. I listened to it, but more, I lived through it.

Then Sir Richard came out, everything changed, and "Freak of Araby" songs overtook the rest of the night. The band flipped and became deeply groovy. It reigned itself way in to make room for Bishop's astonishing guitar work.

He was ferociously intricate and appeared to make no mistakes. But the point wasn't to marvel at his technical ability. It was to feel his frantic and sublime melodies, to imagine yourself running from the cops, hiding in an alley, skydiving, swaggering through a casino (briefcase in hand), and relaxing on a cafe patio, wind rustling your linen pants, stoic-faced, sunglasses hiding what the rest of the world knows not.

At least that's how I took it.

If hiphop producers start sampling "Freak of Araby" tracks, magic will be made. Maximum drama was packed into every song last night. Each was bursting with stories.

I've been to a lot of classical concerts and opera performances during which the audience is supposed to be able to follow narratives by listening to the music. That's frequently too much work for me, and even when I get it, the results often remain obscure. Sir Richard Bishop, on the other hand, had my mind racing.

I pronounce last night's concert cinema for the blind.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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