That would be the Empire Bar in Hackney, in case you were thinking Dune or Star Wars or Jefferson Starship, though Agile Experiments would fit into those worlds just fine. This is the group’s fifth release, all of them on vinyl that has become instantly collectable.
The sound is unmistakably British, drawing elements from free jazz, the London South African diaspora, funk and grime. John Edwards’ bass is a key element, though AE as a live concern does draft in other players ad hoc, including bassists Ruth Goller, Colin Somervell and Tom Herbert, saxophonists Tom Challenger and George Crowley, guitarist Marius Mathiszik and drummer Dave Smith, which means that founder, drummer and sometimes bass player Dave De Rose is the constant.
De Rose has form with some of the most inventive pop acts of the last two decades, working with Mark Ronson, Roisin Murphy and Moloko as well as Mulatu Astatke and Jamie Cullum, so he knows his way around. His motto is “bringing attention back to bringing attention” and this certainly isn’t music that you’d want to let wash round you unattended. Crowley’s sax break on the second track Alive II is as exciting and daring as anything by any of our senior horn players and the energy generated by Edwards and De Rose is extraordinary. Dan Nicholls might seem to occupy only an ancillary role, but much of what you hear comes from him, an orchestra’s worth of samples and FX, plus squelchy synth lines that dance rather than lumbering.
I was occasionally reminded of Love Cry Want with Larry Young and Joe Gallivan; though the exact instrumentation differs, the intensity and depth are the same. Agile Experiments is one of the most exciting bands around. Live dates will be postponed or only virtual for the time being, so catch up on this now.
Alive I; Alive II; Alive III; Alive IV; Alive V; Alive VI; Alive VII (38.32)
George Crowley (s, fx); Dan Nichols (syn, samples, fx); John Edwards (b); Dave De Rose (d).
Dave De Rose Records DDR014