Sono: Sono

Sir Richard Bishop: Plays Sun City Girls
No-Fidelity Recordings

Who would have thought that Björk's “Hyperballad” could translate so effortlessly into an instrumental jazz idiom? That's exactly what happens on Sono's two-track, 10-inch single recorded live before what sounds like an audience of five people. Then again, with Keith Kenniff (aka Goldmund and Helios) manning the sextet's drum chair (his twin brother on double-bass), no one should be too surprised by the quality of the result. Even better, the song's tender melodies are couched within a remarkable, ten-minute arrangement that puts harp, of all things, center stage. The musicians ease into the tune languidly, letting the song's melodies slowly come into focus until harp and electric jazz guitar rapturously merge to repeatedly voice the yearning theme. One imagines Ms. Guðmundsdóttir would be pleased. On the B side, Sono offers a commendably loose, late-night club reading of “Part Wolf,” but the Jim Black piece is less striking, simply because, melodically, it's less arresting. Even so, the ease with which the group robustly wraps itself cozily around the soprano sax player's lead is more than deserving of mention.

Still on the single tip, Sir Richard Bishop wields acoustic guitar like a dagger on his 7-inch disc of two brief pieces, “Space Prophet Dogon” and “Esoterica of Abyssinia,” (covers of Sun City Girls' tracks from the 1990 album Torch of the Mystics) recorded live in in Newcastle at the Morden Tower. The musician's awesome technical facility is put on full display in both cases, with the first a multi-layered, Eastern-flavoured meditation of blissful, psychedelic character, the second almost bluegrass in style with Bishop ferociously attacking the instrument and generating swirling masses of blurry sound.

July 2006