Not On Label (Laila Sakini Self-released) / UK / 2021
Originally a tape-only companion piece to Laila Sakini’s quietly stunning ‘Vivienne’ AOTY contender last year, 'Into the Traffic, Under the Moonlight’ now gets a standalone vinyl release, newly mastered by Rashad Becker to provide us with a chance to swoon at its endless, quiet charms from a new perspective. Featuring Laila’s voice, plus piano, samples, cello, bass clarinet, flute and handclaps, it’s a totally unique late night/intimate pop anomaly that sounds to us something like the missing link between Grouper, Bohren & der Club of Gore and The The’s Soul Mining.
'Into the Traffic, Under the Moonlight’ is no doubt woven from the same fibre as Laila's ‘Vivienne’ album - one of the records we listened to - and loved - most last year, but it expands on its minimalist palette of piano, voice and effects to include more instrumentation, samples and full bodied arrangements. Listening to ‘Vivienne’, followed by this one, feels a bit like emerging from a small room - curtains drawn - into the outside world for the first time in a while.
The quietly suggestive presence of Sakini’s music evokes ciné-rich scenarios and vignettes from a careful paucity of ingredients to limn scenes of lonely existential angst and hypnagogic dreaminess that contrast with ruffer cuts of late night trip hop and nerve-bitten breakbeats that resemble a makeshift coffee table strewn with bits of baccy and weed, mug stains and unpaid bills, rather than unwieldy art books and pot pourri. Despite their quiet nature, these are ambitious, layered, memorable songs for the ages.
It pays to start at the back here, as the creaking cold space and aching vox of ‘Night Emotion’ really seems to sum up the wistful sensuality of the whole release, but - to do it properly - the album unfolds as a total artwork, looping from the plaintive vocals - and flute - of ‘Talk My Way’ in succinct turns thru the dust-mite dance of her instrumental ‘Wade High’, to the opiated night flight of ‘Into The Traffic’, while curled-lip smackers in ‘Easy Does’, and her restlessly cranky ‘Metro’ help play out a flux of feelings, ambiguous and determined - that remind you that no one ever really knows what goes on inside other people’s heads.
In a world of overly produced and controlled music, this here is yr antidote - Laila Sakini is producing some of the most vital and brittle music of our time.