Leila Courtesy of Choice

Leila Arab knows how to tell a story, albeit a roundabout and abstract one. Whether crafting precise layers of sound or giving us pieces stripped to their raw essentials, this British-by-way-of Iran producer is nearly unrivalled in her ability to lure listeners with her edgy, challenging and heavily dramatic tales. You can't help but want to climb into Leila's world, even if it's a wee bit unsettling at first, as she packs more passion into a single musical moment than many producers do during an entire album. Witness Courtesy of Choice, her follow-up to 1998's Like Weather, which was released on Aphex Twin's Rephlex label. Slightly more linear in nature, Courtesy... sees Leila offering nods and winks through her electronic swirls of sound. The exquisite "Brave," with its child's toy intro, dark textures and insistent strings, perfectly sets the tone. "Sodastream" is brilliantly warped, emotionally charged pop music. Blurring the lines between accessible and avant-garde, it features the distorted, sped-up, PJ Harvey-esque vocals of Luca Santucci riding beautifully over thick, pulsating beats, echoes and effects. "To Win Her Love" allows Santucci to sing a tale of lost love in his own voice. As his pleas and ploys become more colourful, Leila's subtle sounds grow increasingly frantic. "Do You Got Time" travels a different path. With a sampled hip-hop vocal, bent and scratched almost till breaking point, sitting atop a cloying carnival-like organ, this one is rivalled only by its comrade-in-sound "Be Clowns," where Arab's imagination is gleefully, grinningly wicked. This is creative, highly listenable, unpretentious electronic music at its best. (Beggars Banquet)