Leila Arab is an Iranian musician/DJ/producer currently based in the U.K. I’m guessing the reason for that is that the current regime in Tehran permits about as much rocking of the Casbah as the one The Clash sang about (can I refer to The Clash and/or Joe Strummer in any given situation? Bet your ass I can!). In any case, her third album under the name Leila, Blood, Looms and Blooms, is a nifty electronic trip that will delight the bleep-‘n’-blip loving Pitchfork crowd and people like me who are usually deeply skeptical of electronic music, LCD Soundsystem and the first DJ Shadow record notwithstanding.
Blood, Looms and Blooms can be divided into basically two categories: the creepy, atmospheric instrumental tracks (featuring percussion eerily reminiscent of Herbert’s Bodily Functions album) and the sinister, poppy tracks featuring guest vocals from Martina Topley-Bird and Terry Hall (you know, from The Specials. Yeah, those Specials. You know, “Message to You, Rudie”? Jesus… will you just go get the first fucking Specials album right now?) The former type of song is exemplified in album opener “Mollie” and the latter in the excellent “Time to Blow,” which features the aforementioned Terry Hall.
One of my favorite things about Blood, Looms and Blooms is that it’s not as dance-happy as a lot of electronic albums I hear. It’s broody and dark, like if Tom Waits was laying down beats and daring someone to sing something happy over them. Of course, this can make the journey across all 14 tracks a little bit daunting (but take heart – “Deflect” is a poppy oasis on the back end of the album, one of the most infectious songs I’ve head in a while. It’ll wash the dirt off ya for the rest of the record). Generally speaking, instrumental tracks always feel like filler to me and Leila doesn’t really change my bias; she does, however, successfully tweak it. This album contains pretty interesting filler, but it’s still nowhere near as captivating as the vocal tracks, especially the eerie (and wierdly named) “Daisies, Cats, and Spacemen” which features vocals by Leila’s sister Roya Arab. And then there’s the elephant in the room – an audacious cover of The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” featuring vocals by Luca Santucci. Beatles purists will probably shit a brick, but I dig this version. And, love it or hate it, it’s way better than hearing Beatles tunes in fucking Target commercials. You can’t hear this and say Leila didn’t do something unique with the tune and I would argue that she took it’s hauntedness and turned it up to eleven.
This album is a slowburing grower, but it’s worth the work. Leila has constructed a dark beauty of a style that appears rarely in my own record collection (Mezzanine by Massive Attack probably comes the closest to it) and probably more frequently in other people’s. It’s hard for a rock snob like myself to really know how to talk about an album like Blood, Looms and Blooms – the fact that I was compelled enough to actually buy the album was a surprise in itself. I’m pretty floored that actually like it and, in fact, listen to it repeatedly. Leila has reaffirmed my belief that there is good music in all genres, if you’re willing to dig for it. It just so happens that rock music has produced the music that satisfies me the most (and whatever genre you would call Tom Waits. Is “awesome” a genre? It is now). That doesn’t stop me from getting super excited any time I hear John Coltrane (very, seriously excited. Dude was amazing – listen to A Love Supreme and if you’re not feeling that, you’re not feeling shit) or every time a new Atmosphere album drops (apparently, when life gives you lemons, you pick up the ball that Sage Francis fumbled and run it into the end-zone for a game-saving, life-affirming touchdown. Sports metaphor over, we now rejoin our review in progress). That’s about all I the wisdom I’ve got for you as regards Leila and Blood, Looms and Blooms. It’s the quirky person at the record store who you’d never talk to except that they’re checking out the same obscure album you love by that one obscure artist you’re sure no one else knows about. But then you start talking and they’re all like, “I made this trippy fucking music, you might dig it.” And you know what? You just might.