Maurice Louca - Elephantine [Northern Spy Records/Sub Rosa - 2019]Maurice Louca is an Egyptian experimental musician & composer born in Cairo where he currently lives and works. He is the co-founder of the bands Bikya, Alif and Dwarves of East Agouzoua. Elephantine is his third solo album, & his first for Northern Sky/Sub Rosa. On this release he takes out a large ensemble of 12 players to interplay into his unique blend of Middle Eastern and African rhythms to bring something that flows into the lane of Sun Ra’s magic, and perhaps even Miles Davis’s work at the height of Fusion.
The album begins with a softly mesmerizing guitar riff that has an obviously middle eastern flare in its tone, it's joined by cymbals-first very faint, then crashing & being joined by heavier percussion and horns. The music rises, much like a sonic dawn, and it sounds exactly as you would imagine the cover of the album to sound like if you could just hold it in your hand and have a picture speak to you.. an image.. a visual capturing.. If that could conceivably become music and fill your mind.. that is exactly what the opening chords of this album sound like...such a beautiful unification of sound and art, and as the dawning implied by the cover art.. the music rises and the Sun shines.. (..did I mention Sun Ra). The opening track “The Leper” continues on with an intricate weaving of bells and percussion creating a vision invoking sound-scape complete with horns that sound like buzzing flies pestering your ear. The groove continues to grow to a boil with all elements of the large ensemble having assertive voices in the main riff as it finds its way to a fade...almost like a dixie land band moving down the street away from you.
The second track, “Laika”, begins with a meandering saxophone, then falls into a playful scale exercise, which folds back on itself- this is joined by more horns- these just buzz all around this scale groove each taking their turns stepping off the groove and having some solo voices in the grouping.
By the time the third track happens ”One More for the Gutter” Louca has built to a super swell executed containment of chaos. Again starting with the guitar-based simple rhythms.. and then bombastic percussion and sonic spastic Bop style clarinet and alto sax playing.. moving into all directions like an impressionist painting. And then the mood shifts to a creepy Arabic waltz with seductive female vocals for “The Palm Of A Ghost” with almost of a Torch sound...which is just the right tone and energy to set the mood for the title track “Elephantine” -an seven minute excursion in interplay and improvisations with a super nod to Sun Ra-loose and lounge inspired slow and gooey jazz.. soft bass with heavy on the bells an a faint snare with brushes holding town the time. Sultry lines from the horns, and spacey vibes between everything giving it that super laid back..”I wanna sleep to this” feeling.
The final track “Al Khawaga” reminded me Frank Zappa- off time ‘n’ abrasive to start with, then a cool jazz groove break down, complete with heavy xylophone parts to make it have that special flare-before slowly find it’s way back to the opening dirge.
If you are into fusion and improvisation with interesting instruments- you are gonna LOVE this album, if you are into electronica- you are NOT gonna love this album. .. me.. I LOVE this album- it's amazing. I hope Louca continues down this path, and tours the world with a large band and shows the universe that Space is Still The Place. Lob Instagon