The first impression that Polytheistic Fragments leaves is one of a kind of smug grandstanding. It’s an album of guitar-dominated instrumentals that takes diversity and eclecticism to a degree that threatens to collapse into an incoherent display of advanced dilettantism. Former Sun City Girl Bishop (they split earlier this year after the death of Charles Gocher) has an extensive back catalogue, but nothing is quite as stylistically jumbled as this.
After further listens, the individual characters of the pieces begin to assert themselves. The flamenco touches of “Cross My Palm With Silver” and “Rub Al Khali” are quite different, with the latter infused with a Moor-ish vibe and some stunningly dextrous playing. These contrast with the suspended electric space blues of “Hecates Dream” and the atonal twelve string strummings of “Free Masonic Guitar”. “Quiescent Return” is a folkish classical guitar piece played fairly straight.
Three of the eleven tracks are two minute long vignettes, such as “Tennessee Porch Swing” which sounds like a tribute to John Fahey’s Blind Joe Death persona. The only lengthy piece, and the highlight of the collection, is the eleven minute “Saraswati” – a stately piano instrumental built over an Indian drone background. It is a mesmerising and hauntingly beautiful piece. By the time track ten swings by, you’re ready to expect anything. Even so, a surf instrumental! “Canned Goods And Firearms” is more than just a novelty nod in the direction of Dick Dale, though, and has a brilliant jazz-like improvisation built over a standard four note ‘oompah’ surf beat. “Ecstasies In The Open Air” brings proceedings to a close – an engagingly sweet flute and guitar lullaby.
I’ve had this in the pile for a while now, and I’m glad I waited before I wrote about it. Polytheistic Fragments is one of those records that reveal their genius slowly. Its wilful eclecticism is part of its charm – that sense of unfettered, even naïve, adventure. The more I play it, the more I love the pure joy it exudes.
1 Cross My Palm with Silver 4:02
2 Hecates Dream 3:21
3 Elysium Number Five 2:02
4 Rub’ al Khali 4:05
5 Free Masonic Guitar 4:58
6 Cemetery Games 1:53
7 Quiescent Return 2:48
8 Saraswati 10:48
9 Tennessee Porch Swing 1:57
10 Canned Goods & Firearms 5:15
11 Ecstasies in the Open Air 4:13