Leila

Blood, Looms and Blooms

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Her first album in eight years and her Warp debut, Leila's Blood, Looms and Blooms almost didn't happen: after the release of 2000's moody, murky The Courtesy of Choice, she lost both of her parents and, for a long time, her interest in making music. With the encouragement of her friends and family, Leila returned to the studio and recorded these songs, often with her family and friends -- who include Terry Hall and Martina Topley-Bird -- in there with her. While Blood, Looms and Blooms' very existence is somewhat surprising, it's even more remarkable that this is Leila's most uplifting work, given the loss that preceded it. Far from wallowing in grief (though that would certainly be understandable), Leila crafts vivid tracks that cast as much light as they do shadow. "Little Acorns" is downright mischievous, bouncing along on a good-natured beat as Khemahl and Thaon Richardson hum and babble with childlike glee. Terry Hall's tracks borrow some of the Specials' forays into woozy, carnivalesque atmospheres: "Time to Blow"'s winding melody and tumbling keyboards update his unique brand of whimsy, while album closer "Why Should I Worry," a duet between Hall and Topley-Bird, plays like a show tune that's somehow nostalgic and futuristic at the same time. The ominous undercurrents of Like Weather and The Courtesy of Choice also resurface, especially on "Mollie," which opens Blood, Looms and Blooms with some very uneasy listening: a blippy drum machine beat gives way to dense distortion and huge swaths of atmospheric electronics while skittering percussion and a vaguely Middle Eastern melody lurk in the background, creating an exquisite -- and exquisitely tense -- atmosphere. The only song more massive on Blood, Looms and Blooms is the wittily named "Mettle," which, with its giant fuzz bass, lapping water, and guitars corroded with distortion, sounds like an enormous engine pumping at the center of the world. Even the tracks that recall the monochromatic territory of Leila's previous albums, such as "Daisies, Cats and Spacemen" (which is sung by her sister, Roya Arab) and the funky yet dramatic Topley-Bird showcase "Deflect," have something unique unfolding at every turn, while "Lush Dolphins"' playfully darting synth melodies and "The Exotics"' otherworldly lounge break entirely new sonic ground for her. Well worth the wait, Blood, Looms and Blooms offers more proof of why Leila has been hailed by Gilles Peterson, Aphex Twin, and Björk since she started making music.

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