A hyper-limited split LP created especially for the Earth/Sir Richard Bishop joint European jaunt back in 2008, this record sees both performers basking in the utter opulence of the electric guitar, making their case for the instrument's continued validity and evocative essences. It's a surprisingly pure and homely recording given both musicians' reputation for audience antagonism (via belching glacial nowhereness in the case of Earth vs. a "what-the-fuck" approach to reality from Rick Bishop) and has an unexpected warmth to it; gone is the desert-baked isolationism of the reinvented Earth along with Bishop's frighteningly cold bath of shattering technique. Both have traded in for a sound more personal and magickal, tending towards the image-laden rather than the simple audio wash.
Earth's contribution, "The Peacock Angels Lament," is the more radical of the two pieces, as well as the one more caught up in its own pretension to grandeur. Performed entirely by Dylan Carlson alone, this expanse of guitar formalism has more in common with the traditional Earth than it does the lonely dust swarms of recent outings, despite its heavy reliance on vaguely bland jazz explorations and faux-Eastern lividity. The focus on the guitar as a single source of sound, free of any accompaniment, firmly roots this piece in the direction of Carlson's past. That isn't to say just because he throws on a guitar by himself we're back in the "Earth 2" realm-it's simply a matter of tone. The somewhat oppressive atmosphere here is similar to the enormity found in works like "Seven Angels" or "Like Gold and Faceted"; it's heavy and engulfing, almost clogging in its syrupy opulence. The guitars may ring rather than slough but the point is clear: you're getting dragged under. Carlson doesn't emerge entirely victorious, though. Too much of "The Peacock Angels Lament" is full of wandering, wiry, self-serving guitar solos that do little to advance the motion of the song as much as they seek to reassure the listener that Carlson still likes the instrument. I would have been happier with more tone and ether as opposed to pointless legato runs and scale regurgitation; Carlson evidently feels a need to play rather than simply create.
Bishop, on the other hand, turns that flexing of technique into something beautifully immersive and constantly in a state of druggy flux. Bishop has never shied away from guitar demonstration-his mastery of the instrument is so advanced and genre-shredding that any time he chooses to play it's a delight-nut here he narrows that technique in for the purpose of creating a space. "Narasimha" is nothing less than its own perfectly contained world, a mirage-like painting of distorted Arabia by way of the great cosmic bazaar, a melting pot of culture and influence that becomes an-opium fogged drizzle of hallucinogenic, dreamy bliss. Hypnotic, buzzing, and gorgeous, Bishop's side draws you in with relentless layers of droning guitars and clouds of finger-picked haze, a horizon of astrals that seems both blank and endless. This is a place to exist, a place to forget, a place to transcend. In thirteen short minutes Bishop's fretwork and soundscaping become a portal to the worlds unknown, consciousnesses untamed and adrift.
Together the sides function as one lengthy trip, with Earth's side being the initial lull and Bishop providing the rabbit hole to the void. If Earth had been able to go a little further, perhaps drawing more deeply on their rich feedback-laden work of the past, then the split would have been enormously successful. As is it's a collectible bauble for the financially secure, teasingly out of reach and scarce. Earth has done better work; Bishop continues to ascend.