"Seemingly tossed-off spontaneity is the intoxicant with which Alvarius B vs Abdel Baqy Byro in Cairo is heavily laced. This 39-minute lenticular collage recalls Tangier-era Burroughs in its concealment of structure behind a veneer of arbitrary free association, with Alvarius B. delivering his take on contemporary behavioral dementia in a style that veers from the nocturnal yammer of legendary somniloquist Dion McGregor to salty neo-Yossarian ravings to the casual vitriol of a misanthrope who knows he’s entertaining.
It’s the kind of trip a modern-day Slothrup might take after smoking polyester shrubbery and over-indulging in candiru sushi served by an erotic topiary gardener in exile for masturbating on the wall outside a 19th Century French orphanage — overseen by The Sinister Extemporizer himself, Alan Bishop.
It was recorded live all over Cairo (in cars, trains, apartments, garages, cafes, bars, on rooftops, on the street) with a backline that includes little else beyond an acoustic guitar and a radio. Field recordings, glitchy wheeze underpinnings, and snippets of space murble garnish the album, but site-specific stuffing is what gives this kataif its particular flavor: a rapped tribute to the murdered members of a hardcore soccer fanclub; a pas de deux for laptop keyboard and BBC’s coverage of Gaza bombings; public demonstrations against the Muslim-Brotherhood-authored Constitution; Monte Carlo Arabic Service’s mention of the 70th anniversary of El Alamein battle.
Bishop’s quilt of screenshots depicts a consciousness informed by an increasingly universal presumption that everything public should be interactive, if only to act as a vessel for contempt. An urbane cannibal fills the twilight bazaar with bacterial karaoke and falsetto bleating slicker than a goat’s uterus before disappearing into the crowd at Snotty’s Chill-Out Pentagram. Turn a corner and it’s an improv duet for acoustic guitar and the pachyderm grind of dirty delivery trucks.
All around is mysteriously auto-tuned, proto-mahragan R’n’B crooning right out of a Saharan cellphone rave. A blue-blood places a call to an amplified insect tantrum, and is eavesdropped upon by a seductress loop. Delusional arms suppliers mansplain, as is their wont, and a beautifully dismissive monologue reduces music writers to literary dumbwaiters. The Invisible Hands take a moment to get in touch with their inner Sex Pistol. Prerecorded announcements are abused, quite comedically — the implication being that the only qualifications needed to engage in public discourse (telegenics and a piehole) are grossly insufficient.
Alan Bishop stands before you not to praise anything (especially not the pathetic aesthetic championed by pork brosnans and Illuminati blood-drinkers stumbling from one end of their bleachy little swamp to the other, where mediocre meets bland and no amount of chlamydia-flavored tofutti with ground up glass in it will protect them from the constant tularemia rain), but to bury it, deep on the shoreline of Dunning-Kruger, a parting gift from The Sibling Unmoored as he withdraws in disgust. Maybe he’ll return after Ramadan, if only to crack open what’s left of their skulls like crème brulée, harvest the enlarged amygdala, and render tiny portraits of Pepe The Frog onto their lacerated morgellons. Maybe not." Seymour Glass, California, USA, September 2016