- Back in 1998, UK-based musician Leila Arab released a weirdly lo-fi yet fully formed album titled Like Weather. Its main single, "Feelings," featured bedroom soul singer Donna Paul and offered a skewed take on R&B, a genre dominated by the glossy productions of the likes of Timbaland, The Neptunes and Rodney Jerkins. Needless to say, Leila's music felt like it belonged to a world of its own, a feeling she then further developed on Courtesy of Choice and Blood, Looms & Blooms. Whereas that last one saw her working with a few too many vocalists (Terry Hall, Martina Topley-Bird as well as Leila-affiliated Luca Santucci and own sister Roya), this new U&I long player is a welcomed return to form and Leila's most gripping work to date.
Leila has always had a firm foot in the somber end of the IDM spectrum, and most of the instrumentals on U&I are stark, demanding and completely intriguing. "Activate I," for instance, wouldn't sound out of place on Adult.'s very first release while "Interlace" or "Boudica" recall Aphex Twin at his most perverse (especially the latter, with its skips and stutters and its overall sense of unresolved tension). But this doesn't mean Leila doesn't sound of her time: "Eight" is one part Kuedo and one part Ford & Lopatin with added creepiness courtesy of a music box-like, infantile melody.
U&I switches gears with a clutch of collaborations with electroclash retiree and all-around weirdo Mt. Sims, which thankfully constitute half of the material on display here. A decade ago, Sims came across as the male equivalent to Peaches: but whereas Peaches is stuck treading the same water, Mt. Sims went on to work on an opera with Planningtorock and The Knife and regained his artistic compass in the process. "In Consideration" shows traces of these experiences with its extravagant cooing, but the track is also pretty much in sync, musically speaking, with contemporary bedroom electronica à la Laurel Halo or Sleep ∞ Over. "Colony Collapse Disorder" and first single "(Disappointed Cloud) Anyway" have Mt. Sims surrounded by agitated buzzes and abstract rhythmic patterns, while "Welcome to Your Life" and "All of This" have an industrial throb that is both lurid and commanding.
These tracks were apparently written over a very short period of time last year after the two met at a party, decided to work together and finalized everything online. Yet despite the album's title, this isn't music about communion or an actual exchange. Instead, it's all about alienation: from society ("We are not the countries that we've been investing in," chants Sims on "U&I"), from technology (the artwork is supposed to represent a hard drive crashing down), and from the people we meet. Just look at the generally distorted syntax of the song titles and they way they seem to prefer vaguely poetic undertones over any sense of straightforward, comprehensive meaning. It's as if U&I was also asking you to make sense of its compelling sonic mess.
01. Of One
02. Activate I
03. All of This
04. Welcome to Your Life
05. In Consideration
07. (Disappointed Cloud) Anyway
09. Colony Collapse Disorder
11. In Motion Slow