Maurice Louca :: The Leper

On “The Leper,” the first taste from  Maurice Louca’s forthcoming Elephantine, due February 1 via Northern Spy, the Cairo-based composer leads a 12-piece band over a steady, motorik groove. Reeds and xylophone vamp over a locked rhythm section, building in intensity. By the time Louca and co. reach the conclusion almost nine minutes in, with flicks of guitar and moaning sax, it’s clear why he’s labeled Elephantine his “most ambitious work.”  Like his occasional collaborator in Dwarves of East Agouza, Alan Bishop of Sun City Girls, Louca is out to synthesize sounds from all across the globe: the American and British rock he internationalized as a youth, trading contraband tapes with schoolmates, the electronic music he encountered in the early aughts, free jazz, Afrobeat, avant-garde, and shaabi, “of the people” Egyptian pop music. Following the Arab Spring, a DIY musical community flourished in Egypt, which Louca found himself swept up in. After years of steadily building his reputation through tours of Europe, Louca decamped to Stockholm to track the new album, working with a cast of players from Sweden, Turkey, Denmark, Iraq, and Italy. Leading on guitar and piano, Louca’s vision brings to mind the dynamism of electric-era Miles Davis, with welcome detours into minimalist and post-rock territory. Though the political landscape of Egypt is ever-shifting— once again, musical expression is subject to strict governmental oversight —Louca and his compatriots in there are creating boundary-defying sounds. words/j woodbury