Possessing a visionary take on mongrel electronica, Egyptian producer-arranger Maurice Louca brings sounds familiar to lovers of Middle Eastern musics and dervishes them off into utterly new territory on his second album, Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot).
Marching in with its dignified, chin-held-high lock-step festooned by carnival beads and garlands, a mad, fantastic organ running in between the lines like a wild child, the whole procession is finally gulped up, dubbed out and sent down another street. Possessing a visionary take on mongrel electronica, Egyptian producer-arranger Maurice Louca brings sounds familiar to lovers of Middle Eastern musics and dervishes them off into utterly new territory on his second album, Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot). Underlying its uniqueness is the blend of a pro-proletariat genre called shaabi (which occupies a gritty cultural space in North Africa similar to that of rembetika in Greece or the blues in America, without sounding anything like either), hip-swaying wigged-outedness and brain-tingling intelligence.
Each of Louca’s eight tracks is unleashed rather than begun, the swirl of the miasma—those strings, those drums—distilled into dazzling trances that just barely maintain equilibrium. The core itself revolves (like the revolving list of bassists and percussionists), nothing ever stands still, even on a quieter, more reflective track like “Rupture,” featuring a judiciously plied sample of popular singer Ismail El Leithy. Toasting on three tracks, including the superfunked closer “Spineless,” mahraganat vocalist Alaa 50 performs less like a spotlight hogging rapper and more like another, essential instrument in the orchestra. The buzuq, a delicate, acoustic construction, manages to rise high above the thunderstorm of massed bass and percussion of “Idiot.” The retort to an utterly unexpectable guitar hero solo is introspective but no less spacey, electric guitar slidin’ by Sam Shalabi on the following track. To make up for this prettiness, Alan Bishop of Sun City Girls squirts a toxic sax solo all over the end of “It Will Set.”
The arable Arabic soil cultivated by Louca is sure to yield worldwide appreciation. Meticulously corralled fourth world energy. Seasoned veterans of enthusiastic world music clashes who enjoyed Bill Laswell’s Hallucination Engine twenty years ago will love being updated by Benhayyi Al-Baghbaghan (Salute the Parrot). An album of the year.
Salute the Parrot is available on Nawa.