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[Warp; 2012]

By ; February 3, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Leila is not a name that many US residents would immediately recognize and associate with Electronic music or the IDM subset. This Iranian artist and producer, though, has gained quite a reputation for her participation with Björk on Debut, Post, and last year’s bold project Biophilia, as well as the maintaining of a solo career since 1998. With the deep Björk connection as well as her past records, there has been great work to draw from, but the problem with U&I is that the material shows little of what makes her the producer and musician that she has been in the past.

On Leila’s 2000 album Courtesy of Choice and even 2008’s Blood, Looms, and Blooms, there is a distinct direction that she spends going in. This is half the case with U&I, as something feels lost or not made to be, because these grounds have been trailed before, in fact, by IDM-labeled artists like the groundbreaking Aphex Twin nearly twenty years ago. Of course that’s not to say influence and admiration of paramount artists of the genre are discouraged, but Leila for the last 14 years has herself broken ground and distinguished a resonant sound of her own.

The first third of the album struggles to capture consistency on tracks like “Activate I” and “Welcome To Your Life,” where heavy dub and breakbeat seem to bleed with energy, but are paired with off-putting vocals. The album begins to pick up around “(Disappointed Cloud) Anyway,” a proper way to get the groove back on track. U&I starts to feel like a solid, dark, dance album. It then flows into “Interlace,” a raw mess of sound that has more impact than many the tracks before it, with its brief, jarring presence and placement.

U&I‘s standout track is “Colony Collapse Disorder,” where all of the elements attempted on the album come together just right. The nonintrusive vocal production, the constant build-up; it adds up to a vision that makes sense conceptually and, on record, sounds harsh and exciting. While the the album attains a strongpoint with a select group of songs, the album ends on a rougher note on the title track “U&I,” a vocal-centric track, but luckily finishes stronger with the nostalgic and tonally subdued “Forasmuch.”

Leila, as an artist, brings much to the table with an excellent understanding of her field. U&I simply pins her in a weak spot sonically. As out of place as the occasional vocals are, the production surrounding them is impressive enough to at least disregard the problems for the short-term, so people looking to get their hands on some quality beats could probably check out U&I sometime and find enjoyment out of it.


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