Named after the Ancient Egyptian dwarf deity who was worshiped as the defender of all things good and enemy of all that is bad, and not the blur of motion at the front of the Happy Mondays, though you can easily see Bez being sent into creative spasms by its exceptional sounds, Bes is the debut album from The Dwarfs Of East Agouza. The six track double album is a rhythmic enslavement of the body with melodic jangles working away on ears and imagination; explorations of instrumental improvisation bred on a collusion of African and Krautrock enterprise and adventure.
The Dwarfs Of East Agouza is a trio from Cairo; a project coming together in 2012 when Maurice Louca (organ, synthesizer, beats), Sam Shalabi (electric guitar), and Alan Bishop (acoustic bass/alto sax/vocals) were living in the same apartment building in the city’s Agouza district. Soon their united craft and imagination began creating a unique style and sound further shaped by the Louca’s North African percussion loops and shimmering keys, Shalabi’s West African tinged free jazz guitar, and Bishop’s Krautrock-style acoustic bass. A late night jam session led to the recording of hours of material during a three-day studio run in April 2014, from which Bes eventually emerged. Released via Nawa Recordings, the album is a bewitching and bold gateway into the secrets and hypnotic realms of a North African adventure.
From its first moments, the album has thoughts composing their own exploits; imagined experiences and tales driven by the perpetual hypnotic lure of rhythms and shaped by the suggestiveness of the unpredictable sounds further flirting with and involving the listener. It opens with Baka of the Future and a lone seductive bassline quickly joined by the colourful twang of a guitar picked by fingers with mischievous intent. As the fuzzy shimmer of keys become involved with the virulent nudging of beats, a jazz funk tempting is soon moving feet and hips within an already sultry and mystique laced climate. Bishop’s sax is a warm evocative glaze to a quickly virulent infestation of body and psyche. Discord is no stranger to the adventure either, the off-kilter twinges and twangs of guitar as potent and delicious as the unruffled rhythmic spine which keeps the listener beguiled like a moth to a flame.
The track is irresistible; almost ten minutes of primal yet free and skilfully sculpted incitement matched by the following Clean Shahin. Instantly the track reveals its own individual exotic character, a Persian like charm and scent around a rhythmic captivation aligned to an emotively thick guitar melody. The song’s gentle emergence has an air which, though not melancholic, is more reserved and serious than that of its predecessor. Over time though, its resistance to freeing its spirit and energy is loosened, the piece becoming livelier and more uninhibited as sonic eroticism seeps into melodies and its imagination.
Where’s Turbo? steps up next, rhythmically enticing like a lively belly dancer from the off. It is a lively blur of motion as a smoulder of surf rock/North African spiced grooves sway and seduce alongside the crystalline shimmer of keys and the heavy flirtatious sighs of bass. As with the first pair, its rhythmic suggestiveness is alone physically inescapable whilst the imagination is just as busy with the slimline but rich cocktail of sounds and textures.
It’s sixteen magnetic minutes and still a fleeting moment in the ears, makes way for the more primitive landscape of Hungry Bears Don’t Dance. There is a more primal tone to the track, its repetitive rhythmic prowl bestial in many ways yet around it, like shards and sparkles of light breaking through a thickly woven canopy, keys and melodies glimmer and shine. In no time the darker feel and shadows find themselves immersed in another enthralling tapestry of sound and suggestion before the equally shadowy Resinance takes the imagination into a psychedelic haze of seemingly intimate secrets and dark doorways. Again though, for every clandestine or furtive element there is an embrace of melodic reassurance, this time through the warm bubbling of keys.
The album is brought to a close by the 30-minute free-form epic Museum of Stranglers. It is hard enough to accurately represent the beauty and brilliance in sound of the album in word but this track is the hardest. Imagine though, inspired by its title, entering an off-putting dark yet inviting place and exploring a myriad of jazz crooned episodes involving a series of dangerous yet often beguiling protagonists; each twist in the creative and improvised journey of the piece the next story to immerse in within a persistently mesmeric embrace of similarly evolving sound.
It is an almost mind-blowing end to one exceptional debut. Bes is an album which has to be heard to understand and make any opinion on; thankfully we have and suggest that The Dwarfs Of East Agouza and their album needs to be part of your musical life and indeed imagination.
Bes is out April 29th via Nawa Recordings on 2xLP, 2xCD and Download across most stores.
Pete RingMaster 29/04/2016
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