Autoportrait - Songs for the Quietness

Owain Paciuszko 01/10/2010

Rating: 4/5

Autoportrait is Leila Zerai and she produces richly textured, absolutely gorgeous ambient-pop with nods towards the likes of Stereolab via Portishead. The lead and title track on this debut ep sets the stall out beautifully, beginning subtly slowly building into a collage of electronic flourishes over a sparse backdrop of echoing keyboard lines and laidback percussion. Her tracks are jazzy and experimental, a delightful brass section aside near the end of the first track is a particular highlight.

Awaken treads similar ground, the trumpets are familiar, and whilst this track is more pop and less avant garde than the opener, it's still a pleasant listen with Zerai layering her vocals to particularly strong effect, even though her lead vocal at times lacks a dreamy charm that her backing vocals possess. It builds towards a twinkly crescendo, with synths glistening in the distance and a processed-harpsichord wandering around with carefree abandon, it's got that late-summery vibe of Charango-era Morcheeba with a dash of early Goldfrapp sprinkled on top.

Final track Stinging is a melancholy affair, piano despondently played as Zerai keens and coos, with eerie looped vocals in the background. You can hear the influence of experimental musicians such as Philip Glass and Brian Eno dripping through the simple and dour arrangment, it's a pessimistic and gloomy finale to this little ep, but that's not to say it's bad. It's a sumptuous piece of music, Zerai having the intelligence to know when to let the composition speak for itself and when to use her voice to compliment her music.

This record is a hugely impressive debut release and instantly shuffles Autoportrait to the top of the pile of intriguing and imaginative emerging musicians. This feels like such a tantilising glimpse of her abilities that I can't wait for what she produces next.