Label: Leaf Label Release Date: 06/07/09 Buy: Amazon It’s been said that the only unifying quality across the roster of the Leaf label is uniqueness; the artists all stand alone, refusing to provide a ‘Leaf sound’ by which the label can be categorised. This may not be entirely true; connections could be drawn between the folk-derived practices of Wildbirds and Peacedrums and A Hawk and a Hacksaw, or the complex electronica of Murcof and newest signing Vladislav Delay, but they’d be pretty tenuous. The only real objective of the Leeds-based label seems to be to seek out new and far-flung artists - both musically and geographically - and promote the hell out of them to the rest of the world. In this respect, recent signing Icy Demons are par for the course. The Chicago- based band - brainchild of ex-Bablicon member and serial beard-wearer Griffin Rodriguez (credited here as Blue Hawaii) - have an admirably wonky approach to pop which has seen them through two previous album releases, the first of which was released on the highly respected Elephant 6 label. You’d think, then, that Miami Ice - the band’s third release - would be a work with direction and drive; or at least a sense of maturity borne from having crossed that second-album hurdle. As this alarmingly short full-length (a scant 32 minutes) unfolds, it becomes clear that this is not the case. From the outset, the band meander through a surprisingly hit and miss set of tracks, seemingly taking a scattergun approach to both style and quality. Opener ‘Buffalo Bill’ is saturated with kitsch synth lines and relentless drumming, whilst in the title track ‘Miami Ice’ a summery backbeat props up Rodriguez’ slightly characterless vocals. Instrumentation ranges from numerous strings, guitars and synths, vocal harmonies and drums on ‘1850’ to a single synthesizer on ‘Who There???’, with track lengths being similarly varied. It’s hard to work out exactly what kind of album this is supposed to be, and the result for the listener is unsettling and just a little bit irritating. It has to be said that there are musical peaks, mostly centered around the longer, song-structured tracks: ‘Jantar Mantar’ rolls along nicely, entranced by its own clattering shuffle, and the revolving guitar lines and roomy beats of ‘Spywatchers’ (perhaps the album’s highlight) suggest a slightly sedate Mahjongg. But there are troughs, too: ‘Summer Samba’ is several steps too far in the direction of 1970s lift music, and album closer ‘Crittin’ Down to Baba’s’ sounds like a lackluster nod towards second-rate acid house. Experimentation is admirable, of course; but within any experiment is the potential for failure - a fact which is painfully apparent in Miami Ice. Whilst there are a handful of memorable tracks - perhaps an EP’s worth - these are packed in tightly with a good deal of filler; some of it poor, some of it merely dull. You have to wonder, if Rodriguez struggles to produce even half an hour of good material, whether he’s really in the right business. Then you spy his big bushy beard, and all is forgiven. Rating: 5/10