Maurice Louca

The Luck Hour
Sub Rosa/Northern Spy NS143

Despite the proliferation of dictatorships, repression and confusion in the so-called Arab world, pockets of inclusive creativity exist. It’s confirmed on this CD bringing improvisers from Lebanon, Germany and Egypt to interpret the compositions and arrangements of Egyptian guitarist Maurice Louca, a member of Dwarves of East Agouza. Considering the six tracks draw on minimalist drone, psychedelic folk and expansive improv mixed with Arabic tinges, more nationalist and fundamentalist groups may put the sounds under a Taliban-like fatwa.

The CD’s emphasis on revelry is expressed as acoustic guitar strums from the composer or Sharif Sehnaoui brush up against Khaled Yassine’s percussion, with their suggestion of gamelan clangs and doumbek-like rebounds evolving within an electronic haze of programed clatters and whooshes. With the program unfolding organically interjection of tones from so-called Western instruments like harp, cello and violin are also added without fissure. The most distinctive instance of this is on “El-Gullashah (Foul Tongue)”, where processed static pulsates across the sound field as a Maghrebian Blues evolves. The foot-tapping percussion rhythm features the guitarists trading licks like Doc and Merle Watson while meeting vociferous yowls from alto saxophonist Brahja Waldman.

Intermittent processed buzzing and clangs, sweeping harp glissandi, horn whistles and slurs and percussive string slaps characterize other tracks working up to the final “Higamah (Hirudinea)”. On it, the constant percussion resonation, folksy guitar picking and aviary reed timbres are joined by field recorded voice sample which gurgle and wheeze to be replaced by conclusive instrument rattles, peeps and beeps.

The Luck Hour is a consistently absorbing and individual musical from an unexpected source. It projects that future experimental Middle Eastern will resemble an open souk not a closed shrine. Hopefully this musical ideal will be more long-lasting than the lamented Arab Spring

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. El-Fazza'ah (The Slip & Slide) 2. Bidayat (Holocene)% 3. Yara (Fire Flies) 4. Saet El Hazz (The Luck Hour) 5. El-Gullashah (Foul Tongue)^ 6. Higamah (Hirudinea)

Personnel: Mazen Kerbaj (trumpet, electronics); Brahja Waldman (alto saxophone)^; Sharif Sehnaoui, Maurice Louca (guitar); Ayan Asfour (violin)%; Anthea Caddy (cello); Raed Yassin (bass); Christine Kazaryan (harp); Khaled Yassine (drums, percussion, gamelan)