To describe something as ‘interesting’ is to effectively damn it with faint praise and while one can certainly admire the intricate, difficult compositions contained within U & I, on the whole it is a difficult album to love. Half of the tracks feature guest appearances from Matt Sims or (Mt. Sims) whose vocal melodies and phrasing often work against the broken rhythms and cacophonous white noise of Leila‘s soundscapes. This complex matching of vocal phrasing against the racket of malfunctioning machinery ought not to work and, as evident on the Autechre meets The Normal turbulence of ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’, often doesn’t. But on the likes of ‘(Disappointed Cloud) Anyway’, the disorienting clash of vocals set upon a background of bouncing pulses creates a fresh, exciting sense of unsettling euphoria. While on the title track, Mt Sims combines a slow digitally-distorted monotone with spoken word poetry while Leila’s twinkly synth-goth gloom suggests the meloncholia of mid-period Depeche Mode.
The album tends to switch between moments of industrial clatter (‘Interlace’) and ambient iciness (‘In Motion Slow’) and this results in a disjointed listening experience. As neither an album suited to unwinding or going wild to, U & I will have difficulty in finding an obvious situation in which to listen to it. However, moments like the aforementioned ‘(Disappointed Cloud) Anyway’ and the delirious doom of ‘Boudica’ adventure far beyond simply ‘interesting’ or ‘difficult’, and exist simply as magnificent tracks, demanding to be treasured.