LEILA: Blood, Looms & Blooms (Warp Records)


Posted on Jul 3rd 2008 12:39 am

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Leila: Blood, Looms & Bloom

Blood, Looms & Blooms
Warp Records 2008
14 Tracks. 54mins56secs

Leila Arab first appeared on Richard D. James’s Rephlex just over ten years ago with a handful of EPs and a stunning debut album, Like Weather, which gathered considerable praises from the press and got the Londoner’s quirky blend of electronica and pop noticed for all the right reasons. Firmly in charge of assembling little gems drenched in bleeps and glitch, with just a little hand from lord Aphex on post production, Leila brought on board a host of contributors to assume vocal duties, including sister Roya and long term friend Luca Santucci. After moving to XL Recordings, Leila and her crew reconvened for her sophomore missive, Courtesy Of Choice, released in 2000. While the album followed in the footsteps of its predecessor, it somewhat failed to totally recapture the mood of Like Weather and proved an overall less successful offering. Since, beside an appearance on Björk’s Medúlla and Drawing Restraint 9 soundtrack, very little had been heard from her until earlier this year when Warp announced that they were to release Leila’s first new music in over seven years.

Leila Arab, who spent the first few years of her life in her native Iran before her family relocated to London following the Islamic revolution in 1979, is following this new EP, Mettle, with her long-awaited third album. Once again relying on a selection of vocalists to bring her electronic pieces to life, including old timers Roya and Luca, as well as former Tricky collaborator Martina Topley Bird, who recently delivered a rather fine album of her own, ex-Specials frontman Terry Hall, and Homelife singer Seaming To, Leila shows here a much wider and contemporary sonic palette. This allows her to build a truly magical collection, perhaps best encapsulated in Michael England’s lush and expansive artwork and in the album’s closing piece, the dreamy cabaret duo Why Should I? which sees Terry Hall and Martina Topley Bird exchanging glances and words over a rich backdrop of piano, percussions and electronics. Before that, all throughout Blood, Looms & Blooms, Leila distils a thoroughly consistent and enjoyable mix of eclectic electronic music. Album opener Mollie may sound a tad dated at first, but as the piece builds momentum, layers of interferences and distorted noises give it a much more modern feel, and by the time the Terry Hall-led Time To Blow kicks in, Leila has completed her transformation from nerdy kid to full-on electro pop princess.

This however doesn’t mean that she has lost any of her playful character, as Little Acorns, the cover of Norwegian Wood or Lush Dolphins demonstrate, but Leila’s music has gained in maturity and depth, and it shows most predominantly on the jazzy Daisy, Cats And Spacemen, the slightly darker Teases Me or the epic and blissful The Exotics. While very different in tone, these three pieces, together with the aforementioned Why Should I?, reveal Leila’s ambition to gain in accessibility while remaining firmly on experimental grounds. Throughout Blood, Looms & Blooms, she relentlessly dispenses elegant melodies set within complex and vivid soundscapes and creates superbly evocative and effective pop vignettes.

More than a return to form, Blood, Looms & Blooms is a coming of age for Leila. Here, she never turns her back on what she is known for, but the overall tone is more refined, the moods more finely detailed, the soundscapes richer without ever being sickly or predictable. It may have been some time since Leila was last heard of, but she has blossomed into much more than what her early work was hinting at, making the wait well and truly worthwhile.


Leila (MySpace) | Warp Records
Buy: CD | LP | iTunes

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