Protect-U is a modern-day duo from D.C., though a blindfolded listening test might indicate otherwise: Mike Petillo and Aaron Leitko’s synthesized funk sounds like it’s from another place and time, conjured somewhere in Europe in the late ’70s or early ’80s. The band’s flowing jams feel like the extended portion of an ancient Human League remix that never returns to the song’s core.
After releasing two well-received 12-inches on Petillo’s Future Times label, Protect-U has made an international leap with its new EP, “Motorbike.” Released by England’s Planet Mu, the influential label run by Mike Paradinas (µ-Ziq), this new three-song 12-inch captures all that makes Protect-U’s take on electro-funk so appealing. Petillo and Leitko — a music critic for The Washington Post — became a band by happenstance, after performing late-night improvisations on analog synths. That’s still Protect-U’s working method, and you can feel the loose-limbed roots in the wobbly, boogie-down productions.
The repetitive, open-ended elements can make for a tough listen at home, but they provide the perfect headphone soundtrack for a long run through Rock Creek Park or an all-night dance-floor meltdown.