The Dwarfs of East Agouza is a new trio, formed of Sam Shalabi of Land of Kush, Maurice Louca of Alif, and none other than Alan Bishop of the great Sun City Girls. Recorded in Cairo, Bes is a fantastic set of grooving, psychedelic improvised pieces, North and West African sounds playing a major role. Double CD / double LP on Nawa Recordings.
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The Dwarfs of East Agouza -- trio made up of Maurice Louca (Alif, Bikya), Sam Shalabi (Land of Kush, Shalabi Effect) and Alan Bishop (Sun City Girls, The Invisible Hands) met in 2012 under a shared roof in Cairo’s Agouza district. They soon started making sweet music together; music which I am struggling to classify. Sometimes krautrock-y, sometimes jazzy; always North African, the trio’s instrumental, exploratory approach to improvisation is driven by Maurice Louca’s North percussive loops and shimmering electronics, Sam Shalabi’s Highlife-ish, free jazz guitar and grounded by Alan Bishop’s earthy, sinewy and sinuous driving bass.
On ‘Where’s Turbo?’, Bishop’s upright bass is the defining constant in the mix, driving the rhythm around which Shalabi improvises his muscular but dextrous, wonderfully hypnotic guitar which weaves amidst Louca’s syncopated drum and sparkling keys. They jam and develop like this for what could easily have been extended periods of over ten minutes on any track but it constantly feels disciplined, controlled. On ‘Hungry Bears Don’t Dance’, Shalabi threatens to take his increasingly expansive playing into the funk stratosphere, but reigns it in just enough as Louca guides the trio home under a steady wave of hammond keys. ‘Resinance’, on the second disc, is a brief trancey number followed by the free-form psychedelic epic ‘Museum of Stangers’. It’s a 30-minute voyage which takes us deep into the Sahara and back, punctuated by hazy, shimmering baritone sax and guided by Shalabi’s steady hand on that gorgeous guitar.
9/10 Professor Mouah Customer review, 16th August 2016
Since the sad end of Sun City Girls (Sir) Richard Bishop has forged ahead as the most publicly prolific solo artist with his pan-ethnic guitar peregrinations but it was always Alan who brought the truly weird dark vibes that made SCG so great (if in doubt get familiar with Uncle Jim and have your mind rinsed out in a dirty bucket of non sequential truth). In a world where everyone can know everything without leaving the house not many records retain any mystique or glamour but this has that rare glint of secret knowledge, like a future soundtrack for a gnostic ritual that you are never getting invited to whoever you know and however much you google it. Like the infamous Cathar heretics of Hav, you can't be allowed to know the way to where this ritual is taking place but you are permitted to have a glimpse provided you never speak of it to another soul. Yeah you know what this sounds like, and you know who plays on it but does that mean you understand it? Doubt it. To misquote some other infamous travellers, you pay for the plastic and the cardboard but you can't own the music.
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