Iga Gozdowska/Courtesy of the artist
The younger Scottish classical guitarist Sean Shibe defies expectations. His new album is titled Misplaced & Discovered – and one factor he apparently misplaced was his conventional, nylon-strung classical guitar. What he discovered as a substitute was a glossy black Mexican Fender Stratocaster.
The album is a completely plugged-in affair, and not using a hint of the usual Spanish classics or Bach transcriptions many guitarists thrive on. As an alternative, Shibe artfully gathers over a millennium’s value of compositions, which, on the floor, could appear to be odd bedfellows.
And in case you suppose electrical guitars are just for shredding and blasting large noise, suppose once more. In Shibe’s association of “Peace Piece,” by jazz pianist Invoice Evans, the textures are gauzy and the colours are muted. I’ve hardly ever heard an electrical guitar sound so featherlight.
The 30-year-old Edinburgh native, who studied on the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, likes to maintain his listeners on their toes. Final yr, he launched an album of Iberian and French music that glowed with crepuscular introspection. On the duvet, Shibe appeared monk-like with a freshly shorn head. The booklet images confirmed him, clippers in hand, lopping off his thick locks.
Misplaced & Discovered flows with a chameleon-like duality. Shibe’s inspiration comes through the enigmatic 18th-century poet and printmaker William Blake, whose metaphysical work performs with opposites and disguise. “A radical looking for the revelatory,” is how Shibe sums up Blake within the album booklet. “The illustrations that accompany his writings disregard conference and current an important auteurship of craft and philosophy,” he provides. In that spirit, electrical guitars do not sound like themselves on Misplaced & Discovered. And Shibe himself, maybe mirroring a few of Blake’s work, seems androgynous on the album cowl, swathed in a pink tulle gown.
One other touchstone of mysticism, represented by two tracks on the album, is the medieval abbess Hildegard von Bingen, whose piece “O Choruscans Lux Stellarum” will get a megawatt makeover. Instead of sacred vocals, Shibe presents a psychedelic swirl of celestial mild — a form of “star-way to heaven.”
Shibe thinks of his new album as an “overflowing toy field” of compositions, however truly it unfolds like a intelligent mixtape. Music by Meredith Monk, Chick Corea and Olivier Messiaen rub elbows with Julius Eastman and Moondog, the Viking-clad composer who, starting within the Forties, carried out on the streets of Manhattan and slept in doorways. His lighthearted love music “Excessive on a Rocky Ledge,” because of Shibe’s refined strumming, takes on the gravitas of a solemn prayer.
All through the album, the guitar substitutes for different devices by means of Shibe’s artful, and reliably tasteful, preparations. But there may be one piece meant to be performed on electrical guitar — Continuance, music written for Shibe by the rising younger British composer Daniel Kidane. Meditative chords that float like clouds are pierced with beams of multi-colored mild. The ethereal sounds emanate from the opposite electrical guitar Shibe deploys on the album, a thirty fifth anniversary version of a PRS Customized 24-08.
Misplaced & Discovered is a beguiling album, the place music of innocence and expertise interlace. And the place a masterful, mercurial artist, compels us to query what a “classical guitarist” ought to sound like in 2022.