Review : Leila - U&I
MetroThe name Leila Arab might not instantly register on mainstream radars but this British-Iranian artist/producer has been making creative sparks fly since the 1990s. It’s fair to say that Arab has never strained to create a commercial hit, even though Björk has called on her electronic skills throughout her own solo career (from Debut to last year’s Biophilia project).
Arab’s first album, Like Weather (1998), was widely raved about, proving her forte for fusing styles from techno to torch songs, funk and Middle Eastern ambience. Really, she could have taken any direction she liked – and she’s generally gone for the far-out option, triggering offshoots under various pseudonyms and flitting through different creative indie labels: from Aphex Twin’s Rephlex to XL and now Warp. Fourth album U&I follows the evocative experiments of Courtesy Of Choice (2000) and Blood, Looms & Blooms (2008), and apparently aims for a more ‘direct’ approach.
That doesn’t mean she’s playing it any safer; opening number Of One is a brief, murkily dramatic rumble of noise – but U&I swiftly snaps into a thrilling groove.
Arab has always worked with an intriguing range of singers (previously including her sister, Roya Arab, and The Specials’ Terry Hall), and this time focuses on one voice: cult US artist Mt Sims (who has previously recorded with The Knife), who brings his offbeat soul and pleasingly louche tones to highlights such as (Disappointed Cloud) Anyway and the title track. There are exhilarating instrumentals, too, laced with strains of trance and electronic body music, including In Motion Slow and the playful closer, Forasmuch. Arab still takes her own alluringly headstrong course and U&I always holds it together....full text
BbcU&I is Iranian-born musician innovator Leila Arab’s fourth album, and the second for the Warp label after time spent with Aphex Twin’s Rephlex and XL. A musical life that thrives on collaboration stretches back to the early 1990s, when she worked with Björk on the Icelander’s Debut and Post LPs – and her last release, 2008’s Warp debut Blood, Looms, and Blooms, featured contributions from both Terry Hall and Martina Topley-Bird. U&I is a heavier, darker creation, however. There are fewer of the intimate, soulful conversations that mark her earlier work (2000’s XL-released Courtesy of Choice featured the dying flickers of trip hop); in their place, a frantic babel, written in conjunction with Berlin-based producer Mt. Sims, that involves umpteen musical genres and the kitchen sink. It’s a bold move, but does it work?
There’s certainly a perplexing mixture of sounds here, with Welcome To Your Life managing to combine frantic breakbeat, Friday night student electro WHEEEE and a slightly weedy vocal, courtesy of Mt. Sims. The following track throws a curveball down into a musty crypt, the ethereal In Consideration all choirboy vocals and minimal backing. The vocal effect in (Disappointed Cloud) Anyway does bring to mind one of Mt Sims’ previous musical partners, The Knife; but unlike many of the myriad Karin Dreijer Andersson clones currently being rushed out by record labels, the track breezes by with an unusual life of its own. It’s followed by tracks proffering brave contrast: the pummelling, brutally abstract Interlace and Colony Collapse Disorder owe much to the noise underground....full text
GuardianThe fourth album by Leila Arab is not an easy listen. In fact, none of the three that preceded it were, either. A protege of both Björk and Aphex Twin, Leila makes music that can't avoid being described as difficult. U and I is difficult in the sense of being complicated: loops of electronica manipulated and set against each other. It's also difficult in the sense of being hard to understand, the vocal content (provided exclusively by Berlin-based performance artist Mt Sims) being little more than snatches of enigmatic verse. Finally, it's difficult because, sometimes, the music is simply abrasive on the ear. Challenges are often rewarding, but there isn't much reward for submitting to this particular test. U and I feels redolent of 90s electronic music, using tones that might have been heard on old albums by Boards of Canada and Autechre. And for all the clashes and collisions, rarely do they come to a climax. If you're a difficult person however, this album may yet be for you....full text
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