Pioneers of electronic music have never, and will never, receive the recognition they deserve. Sad as it is, while rapid developments in technology make new discoveries easier, fiddling with computers will just never have the same visceral impact as chugging away at a plankful of strings. This largely explains why you have probably not heard of Leila, despite the fact that she’s the electronic genius who collaborated with Björk on her first two solo albums and last year’s acclaimed Biophilia project.
Leila released her 1998 debut LP on Rephlex, its DIY sonics sounding pretty leftfield even by label boss Aphex Twin’s own bonkers standard. There was a moodier follow-up in 2000 and, eight years later, Leila explored a kind of Weimar trip hop with Arabic music inflections. Now, the big question is whether she has a place in the digital game in 2012. On the evidence of U & I, then absolutely. It opens with the suggestion of a sub plunging to inky ocean depths – 59 seconds of ominous, steady blips punctuated by reverberative whoomphs. With US producer/musician Mt Sims as guest vocalist, this record overwrites Black Dice’s electro-crunk template with Leila’s own eccentric, scribbly aesthetic. Here are chopped-and-screwed bangers (‘Colony Collapse Disorder’) and juddering, jackbooted stomps (‘Activate 1’, ‘Boudica’), but also darkly groovy synth noisescapes (‘All of This’), krautrock-house (‘In Motion Slow’) and something maybe best described as Gregorian ghost house (‘In Consideration’). That Leila can dodge (idiotic) tags this late in the recording day is a testament to her field-of-one vision. Three cheers for ploughing on.
Time Out Tokyo rating:
‘U & I’ is out now on Warp Records / Beat Records