Blood, Looms, and Blooms

Tighten the laces on your Vans and jump on your skateboard, strap on your helmet and hop on your scooter, pump some air into the tires of your cruiser, do whatever you have to do, dudes; Dash, sprint, leap, fly like Olympians to your nearest record shop and lay down the $19.99 for the new Leila Arab album.

Blood, Looms, and Blooms.

Do this. If I were Sam Tellig, I would say, "You want it." If I were Kal Rubinson, I'd say, "It's mandatory."

If I were Jon Iverson, I would say, "Ah-ah ooh-ooh ee-ee!"

The album is available as a compact disc, but the vinyl is what you want. The vinyl is the real thing, the compact disc but a cheap facsimile. Am I being persuasive like our Web Monkey? Are you digging this? The vinyl is deliciously packaged as a double-LP glossy gatefold with gorgeous artwork. Gorgeous. Lovable. Something to hold onto. And you want something to hold onto, you need something to hold onto. Even the inner sleeves are thick, full-color wonders, covered in lyrics and lines artfully strewn by delicate script. And the music?

The music. I don't know much about Leila Arab; I've only just become acquainted with her music, but I've read that she was born in Tehran in 1971; she and her family fled to London in 1979 after the Islamic Revolution in Iran; she is a chain-smoker; her early recordings for Aphex Twin's Rephlex Records were an innovative form of electronic soul; she has performed as part of Bjork's live band; her solo material under the Grammatix alias moves in an even more experimental direction; she is tied to home—the concrete and the abstract—but wonders if she'll ever return; she still lives with her family; Blood, Looms, and Blooms is her first album since 2000's Courtesy of Choice, a critically-acclaimed "masterpiece;" the long delay was due, at least in part, by a severe depression over the loss of both her parents.

But the music. Reminds me, in bits and pieces, of Royal Trux, CocoRosie, Portishead, and Tricky. That last comparison is probably most obvious; Martina Topley-Bird, who also added an exquisite charm to Tricky's otherwise dark, shadowy Pre-Millennium Tension, is a glowing highlight throughout Blood, Looms, and Blooms, her voice ringing out and shimmering like sequins against a black gown. Meanwhile, vocalists Luca Santucci and Terry Hall provide perfect partners—firm, smooth counterpoints to Topley-Bird's intoxicating tremble. And I now want to search out everything they've ever recorded elsewhere. The music. Is dark, indeed, but also playful. Sexy, but also silly. Thick and enveloping and entrancing.

Stuffy audiophiles who like their music tidy and right will be frustrated by this album because, while the recording offers an extraordinary palette of textures and sound, along with a soundstage that goes miles deep (I could hear sounds coming from far beyond my apartment's walls—from down on Newark Avenue, and approaching me from either side, like the dudes outside the 24-hour deli asking me for change), the majority of the sounds are electronically produced, only tempered now and then by cello or clarinet or the human voice (live applause at the end of "Young Ones" will jar you from a dream state). Hungry, searching music lovers, on the other hand, will adore it for everything that it is. A mash of modern pop and classic soul and, of course, newer, future sounds. (I even heard a Stevie Wonder melody wrapped up in one of the many layers, and I can only imagine all that I missed.)

Leila's Blood, Looms, and Blooms has sprinted, leapt, flown to the top of my list of favorite new albums.

I'll return to it many times, I'm sure.

Jim Tavegia's picture

Reminds me of Harry Nillson's music and style. If you are familiar with Nilsson Schmilsson or his score for "The Point", the great animated movie, you will understand. Pretty interesting. If you go to Warp Records .com you can hear a sample.

Mark Higgins's picture

Also well worth checking out her debut album "Like Weather" from 1998. I'd avoid "Courtesy of Choice" though - it's a bit rubbish.

Drumguy49's picture

That sounds like an album(or rather CD) to investigate,Stephen, and leads me to highly recommend my newest fav. CD - Fleet Foxes - A new CD that sounds like it could have come from the sixties - beautiful vocals, harmonies and arrangements - hypnotic-to say the least.

Douglas Bowker's picture

You can listen to the entire album (I think) on her myspace page. I will be picking this one up at some point- thanks Stepehen!

AlexO's picture

I listened to the album on MySpace. What a weird musical style and the whole album is so unusual. I see a pattern developing: As with most of your musical recommendations, I walk away confused: not quite sure whether I really love the album or not caring for it at all. It's the most unsettling feeling.

tom collins's picture

i have to agree with alex. after reading about it and your enthusiasm, i have really tried to love the "cat power" album, but must be to old to really get it. i do love that cover art though. ms. marshall's voice is really cool and new york kind of blew me away, but then it seems like alot of the same. they had it at the library, so i'm not out any bucks. it just goes to show how we all have different tastes, but can all enjoy the hobby. one of my daughter's friends brought over a new vinyl by a group called "postal service" the other night. i didn't listen to too much, but what i heard was very rythmic and fun, but if all of the songs are in that same style, it would get old to me. maybe i am just old? anyway, stephen, keep up the enthusiasm and i will try to keep up, old school that i am.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Thanks for the recommendation, Mark. I will definitely check out Like Weather. Alex, your comment made me chuckle. I don't mean to unsettle you!Tom, I don't think I immediately loved the Cat Power album either. But I love it more and more with each listen. Postal Service is a fun group, too. Tell your daughter that you love their song, "Such Great Heights." It might freak her out. Just a quick, general note: The entire Leila album is not on the myspace page. Only a couple of the 14 tracks are available there.

Derwyn Goodall's picture

I was first intrigued by the cover design

Jonathan's picture

Courtesy of Choice is definitely NOT rubbish. It's a sublime and intoxicating mix of musical colours and textures, one of my favourite albums and definitely made me wait the long years until her next release. Leila's music is original, honest and complex. I have all her records (most of them on CDs, the new one I in beautiful vinyl) and they are all ingenious.Jonathan.