REVIEW: Leyya - Spanish Disco

Laura Kerry

I experienced a series of small blunders while listening to the new Leyya album. I first put on Spanish Disco at night, after a long day and fell into a half-sleep with fantastical half-dreams that kept sliding away from me, informed by the changing music. Then, finally awake and sitting in a room full of people, I couldn’t shake the paranoia that my headphones had slid out of the computer; the music seemed to play throughout the whole room. Finally, when a man started speaking in one of the songs, I thought it was an interesting sample. It took me longer than I care to admit to trace the voice to a pop-up ad playing in another tab.

All of these little events, I think, speak to the fact that Spanish Disco has a tendency to absorb everything it touches. The first full-length work of an Austrian duo, the mostly electronic album functions on the dreamy atmospherics that come from droplets of mallet sounds, washes of ambient synths, and crackling, minimalistic percussion. If they belonged in any category, it might be trip-hop, but Leyya is too elusive and ethereal to hold to any one genre for too long.

Like those slippery half-dreams I experienced with Leyya in my ears, Spanish Disco continually morphs. Its title sets up the expectation of dance tunes with a world-music touch, but the beginning of its first song, “Dyno / Intro,” delivers all-instrumental, light electronica before adding a deep, driving bass that transforms it into a fiery roar. Quiet, whispered tracks like “Brando” explode into noise before fading into ominous, echoing counterparts like “Jordan,” followed by the monk-like humming of “Coma Kit.” Most of Spanish Disco is down-tempo and quiet, but songs like “Superego,” with its propulsive clapping percussion and beat drop, lend some urgency.

All that is to say nothing of the human voice, which, contrary to the expectations set in the first song, propels the album even more than the clever beats and otherworldly synths. Rather than bring it back to earth, though, the vocals add to the dreaminess. When it comes in for the first time on the second song, “I Want You,” it recalls the sparseness and languid sensuality of another male-female duo, The xx (a sentiment echoed in seductive lyrics such as, “Your eyes, they undress me,” on “IDM”). Throughout Spanish Disco, this female voice adopts different shades of ethereality, sounding sometimes like Phantogram (“Drowning in Youth”), Grimes (the falsetto on “IDM”), and Portishead (“Acid / Outro”). Only once does the voice rise and fill out, taking shape in the cries at the end of “I’m Not There.”

It’s easy to consume the audience with noise—it’s much harder to do so with quiet. On Spanish Disco, Leyya manipulate synths, percussion, and vocals in the perfect minimal balance to swallow the listener in their ethereal landscape. Intelligent, polished, and pretty, the album comes with one warning: it just might creep into your dreams.