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Saet El​-​Hazz (The Luck Hour) featuring A Trio, Anthea Caddy, Khaled Yassine, Christina Kazaryan

by Maurice Louca

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  • LP Black Vinyl + Insert
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    LP Black Vinyl + Insert

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    Record/Vinyl + Digital Album

    LP Marbled Vinyl + Insert

    Includes unlimited streaming of Saet El-Hazz (The Luck Hour) featuring A Trio, Anthea Caddy, Khaled Yassine, Christina Kazaryan via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

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Maurice Louca is one of the most gifted musicians and composers on Egypt's thriving underground music scene. This forthcoming full-length album draws voraciously on Arabic music, psychedelic folk. The title Saet el Hazz is a coded saying in Egypt to refer to a good time and usually implies a great deal of debauchery. “When you mention to someone that you’ve had a saet hazz, there are no questions asked. It is what it is.”

LP vinyl exclusively released by Sub Rosa worldwide.

The initial spark for Saet El-Hazz (The Luck Hour) was Louca’s desireto collaborate with 'A' Trio, the Lebanese improvisational group featuring Mazen Kerbaj on prepared trumpet, Sharif Sehnaoui onprepared guitar, and Raed Yassin on prepared double bass. 'When the three of them come together they create a sonic cosmos entirely their own. I started by composing music that I wanted to have exist within this sonic world— at times in harmony, or clashing with it, and all the emotional ranges in between.'
Just as 'A' Trio served as the spark, a commission from Mophradat,
an arts organization based out of Brussels, was the tinder. The commission was for a new composition to be performed using instruments that Louca would modify to play microtonally. This led him to Turkey and Indonesia. In Istanbul, he worked with a Lutheran to custom-make a guitar. In Surakarta, he ended up with an instrument maker tuning a Serang—referred to as the Indonesian xylophone, part of the family of Gamelan tuned percussion instruments. These new modified instruments opened up the composition to new tonal possibilities which drove Louca to expand his line up to include Khaled Yassine, a longtime collaborator and versatile percussionist and drummer, Christine Kazaryan, a dynamic harpist whom he met via Praed Orchestra, and Anthea Caddy, a cellist who came highly recommended from the Berlin free improv scene.
'There is something about linking luck to decadence that resonates with me, and even if I can't fully articulate it in words, the drive behind the music of this album and how it came to be, and the energy between us at the studio rehearsing and recording it, was in a lot of ways for me a saet hazz.'

Saet El Hazz (The Luck Hour) is a long form composition of six movements, recorded over the course of a week in August 2019 at A/B studios in Brussels.



released September 15, 2016

Saet El-Hazz (The Luck Hour) Review written by Thomas Blake

There is something massive and all-encompassing about the sound of musician and composer Maurice Louca’s new release. Not in any way dense or turgid, but expansive and often eye-opening. A dip into the opening track – the ten-minute El-Fazza’ah (The Slip and Slide) – is like flying into a cloud, only to find that it conceals a hidden city full of unexpected architectural flourishes. It opens with a drone, a sense of foreboding but something else too. Sounds – scratching, grinding, creaking sounds – barely identifiable as individual musical instruments gradually crystallise into something more focussed. There is a pretty lattice of guitar, a hint at the textural framework of gamelan. Creaks make way for jubilant chimes, a wash of percussion clears the air. There is a descent into crackling near-silence, just a low drone punctuated by departing waves of sound, shivering cymbals and ever quieter percussive plinks. It is a lesson in how to assemble a composition, test its boundaries and then take it apart in a manner that is almost cinematic. It is a blueprint that is followed throughout the whole of Saet El Hazz (The Luck Hour).

Conceived as a composition in six movements rather than an album in a traditional sense, it is truly global in scope and execution. Louca hails from Egypt. He is a leading light in Cairo’s fertile experimental music scene, and he has assembled a cast of collaborators from impressively diverse musical backgrounds. Lebanese improv group, the “A” Trio (Mazen Kerbaj on prepared trumpet, Sharif Sehnaoui on prepared guitar, and Raed Yassin on prepared double bass) are the main sidekicks, but the album also features percussionist and gamelan player Khaled Yassine, Berlin-based cellist Anthea Caddy and harpist Christine Kazaryan. Influences are from the Arabic, European and Indonesian soundworlds, amongst others.

That’s the map, but the musical territory is altogether more complex – while Saet El-Hazz takes inspiration from a variety of musical forms from across the world, it is not what you’d call ‘world music’, at least not the sort you’d find on the main stage at WOMAD. Louca is more interested in creating entirely new and exciting sounds than conforming to any genre stereotypes. He is closer in spirit to experimental jazz, free improv, and the various and gloriously inscrutable forms of post-tonal music that emerged in the latter part of the twentieth century than to anything with a conventional sense of rhythm or melody.

This might sound like a potential mess for anyone not versed in the mysterious ways of the avant-garde, but that’s far from the case. The freedom of Saet El-Hazz is self-contained. You could even call it structured, if structured freedom is not too much of a contradiction. Louca and his collaborators build up a framework of sound into which the individual pieces slot with surprising ease. The album is dynamic; it builds and breaks; its patterns seem architectural, but in reality, they mimic nature. The scale might be large, but the execution is full of individuality, of small touches that lend a personal and accessible feel to the whole thing.

Much of this is down to the acoustic nature of the instruments and the idiosyncratic way they are played. Louca plays a guitar tuned to play Arabic maqam scales, for example. On lead single Bidayat (Holocene), the group stir up a colourful stew of psych-rock and hypnotic free-folk after a delicate finger-picked intro. Nimble percussion kicks the song into a surprisingly tight groove before a guest appearance from violinist Ayman Asfour adds a suitably lysergic swirl. Yara’ (Fire Flies) conjures woodsmoke and pinpricks of light with impressionistic percussion and backdrop of wheezes and snaps courtesy of “A” Trio’s uninhibited musical tampering (they are known to use whatever objects are at hand to alter the sound of their instruments. As perhaps the album’s most minimal piece, Yara’ provides the clearest window onto the way the collaborative aspects work, with the completely improvisational work of the “A” Trio pitched against the more traditional sounds of percussion. The tension between the two holds, exquisitely, across the whole piece, is a testament to Louca’s skill as an arranger and composer.

The title track is another lengthy exploration of time and space, building from a sweet guitar motif – soon backed up with the now-familiar squeals and crashes – to a wonderfully deranged soundscape fraught with the squelch and squirm of sinister electronic devices coming to life. Delicate harp figures dash about over the top of the debauchery, escaping or teasing. It is uncomfortable, rewarding and exhilarating all at once.

The two final tracks – El-Gullashah (Foul Tongue) and Higamah (Hirudinea) fold into each other to form a kind of closing suite. The first features a deliciously wired alto sax solo from guest performer Devin Brahja along with some insistent, quick-fingered guitar from Louca and Yassin’s bounding, rubbery double bass. The last track, whose translated title refers to the scientific name for leeches, feels as if it is indebted to Indian classical music. It is a slower and more meditative piece in which Louca and Sehnaoui’s guitars are layered over each other, one finger-picked, the other using a slide technique. Here the tension that has held sway over the rest of the album slowly gives way to a kind of tacit understanding, a final commingling of cultures and styles into a more melodic whole. This isn’t to say that the album is meant to carry some moral message, rather it is crafted in such a way that suggests a narrative with some kind of resolution. And in the background, even in the comparative calm of this final track, those eerie sounds from the prepared instruments make themselves known every so often, like voices from a more mysterious plane of existence.

It’s worth noting that the album title is an Egyptian colloquialism referring to a ‘good time’, though it also implies a kind of naughtiness, the possibility of having too much fun. This double or coded meaning befits an album that somehow seems to be in two places at once. Saet El Hazz is experimental and uncompromisingly modern, and yet the reaction it elicits feels timeless and instinctual, playing on our love of suspense and our capacity for joy in a way that only great music can.


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Maurice Louca Cairo, Egypt


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