LEILA: U&I (Warp Records)


Posted on Feb 21st 2012 01:32 am

Filed in Albums | Tags: , ,
Comments (0)

Leila: U&I

Warp Records 2012
13 Tracks. 45mins54secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP | DLD iTunes: DLD

Leila stands as quite a unique artist on the music scene today, and has done so for nearly fifteen years with uncompromising fervour and vision. Born in Iran in 1971, Leila Arab emigrated to the UK with her parents as the Islamic revolution swept across her native land in 1979. Some years later, she became part of Björk’s touring band in the early nineties and started recording and releasing music a couple of years later, but it is with her first album, Like Weather, published in 1998 on Rephlex that she really made an impression. The album combined stunning oblique electronic instrumentals and complex pop songs, sung by a host of vocal contributors, one of which, Lucas Santucci, has since become a regular feature on her records. Following a second album, Courtesy Of Choice (2000, XL), Leila appeared to put her solo career on hold as she joined Björk once again and contributed, notably, to the Icelandic’s soundtrack to Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9. She returned with a new album, Blood, Looms & Blooms, new vocalists (Specials founding member Terry Hall, former Tricky collaborator Martina Topley-Bird, Khemahl) alongside regulars, and a new home, Warp, in 2008.

Leila’s fourth album, here second for Warp, marks a sharp turn into much drier and more corrosive mutant electro pop. For the first time, she relies entirely on one vocalist, and it is not the faithful Lucas who obliges here, but Berlin-based American DJ and producer Mt. Sims, who provides vocals on nearly half of the record. The pair met six years ago at a fancy dress party, and when Leila started collected tracks for what was to become U&I, he seemed to be her ideal partner. While the pair spent some time working together in the studio, the majority of the collaborative process happened over the internet.

There is an urgency here which is very new to Leila’s work. If she has, in the past, experimented quite widely with electronic textures and ambiences, her approach is somewhat different here, as she adopts a resolutely more incisive electro punk sound, as can best be heard on tracks such as Activate I, Welcome To Your Life or Colony Collapse Disorder, even going as far as trespassing onto Aphex territory on the condensed and saturated Interlace.

Sounding a bit like Prince with his fingers caught in a socket, (Disappointed Cloud) Anyway also makes a pretty strong mark on here, but its sleek, almost clinical, electro bop offers a different take on the more radical pieces mentioned above. Elsewhere, the gritty All Of This or twitchy instrumental Boudica are leaner and less corrosive, but their playful dispositions finds its roots in eighties video games and twisted pre-house electro, and, whilst quite different from the more upfront tracks on here, these still appear much more angular than Leila’s usual material.

She hasn’t totally abandoned the more subtle ambient side of her work here though, but the first incarnation of this, In Consideration, the first piece written by the pair, is a somewhat ghostly and unsettling track on which Mt. Sims‘ voice is distorted at will and occasionally struggles to sound human at all. With its swirling filtered synths, In Motion Slow, later on is a much dreamier piece, before Forasmuch concludes the proceedings on a somewhat bouncy and playful note.

Leila’s records have always stood outside of the traditional electronic movements, her approach giving her work a very particular edge which is rarely found elsewhere. This collaboration with Mt. Sims takes her into a very different territory though. More minimal, abrasive and upfront, it may surprise and disconcert at first, but the initial shock soon makes way to fascination at such a beautifully assembled record.


Leila (MySpace) | Warp Records
Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP | DLD iTunes: DLD

Filed in Albums | Tags: , ,
Comments (0)

Comments are closed.