Leila – ‘Blood Looms and Blooms’

July 17, 2008 § Leave a comment

Published: The Vine, July 8, 2008.

Leila
Blood Looms and Blooms
(Warp/Inertia)

Iranian-born Londoner Leila Arab has inhabited many guises over the course of her protracted musical courtship. Initially treading the boards as a DJ, she’s worked as a keyboardist and sound engineer for Bjork, a keyboardist for acid-jazz ensemble Galliano, and eventually, a solo electronic solo artist.

Having released her acclaimed Like Weather debut through Aphex Twin’s Rephlex imprint in 1998, she went onto drop Courtesy of Choice through XL in 2000. But little has been seen or heard of her peculiar blend of low-end texture, cinematic atmospherics, pitched-controlled guest vocals and electronic abstractions since.

The alternately dark, playful and mystique-riddled sonic surrounds of third oeuvre Blood Looms and Blooms frames quite the return for Leila. Drawing from a pool of vocalists including the near-legendary tones of Martina-Topley Bird, Specials front-man Terry Hall and Luca Santucci, her first record for Warp visits terrains as divergent as pop, noir-jazz, trip-hop and texture-riddled IDM.

There are some spectacular moments. The shuddering bass frequencies, creepy, dripping underlays and screeching guitar abrasions of ‘Mettle’, and Luca Santucci’s soaring, white noise-shrouded cover of ‘Norwegian Wood’ are two of the record’s darkest, most thrilling cuts. The fuzzed-out textures and prog-like atmospheres of opener ‘Mollie’ and the tripping, playful dancehall-pop of ‘Little Acorns’ also make for highlights. But it’s when the record searches out the hues between darkness and light that it loses its way somewhat. The shadowy, surrealist jazz-trip-hop of ‘Daisies, Cats and Spacemen’ (featuring vocals from sister Roya), the epic electro-orchestrations of ‘Carplos’ and the electrified, gypsy-esque intonations of ‘The Exotics’ feel a tad dated, as does the driving, Topley-Bird-vocalised drum’n’bass pop of ‘Deflect’.

That said, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Blood Looms and Blooms. It’s a lithe and interesting listen to say the least. But you just get the feeling that Leila is trying to cover all bases at once, where perhaps, she should be focussing on one stylistic inclination at a time.

Maybe it’s an unavoidable side effect of Warp’s more accessible new branding, or maybe it’s just an over-active imagination. Whatever the case, if incredible, eardrum-shattering moments like ‘Mettle’ are anything to go by, Leila has the means to soar well beyond musical middle grounds.

Dan Rule

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