Leftfield

TrackAlbum
Phat PlanetRhythm And Stealth
Universal EverythingAlternative Light Source
Song Of LifeLeftism
Open UpLeftism
OriginalLeftism
Inspection (Check One)Leftism
Space ShantyLeftism
Little FishAlternative Light Source
Afro LeftLeftism
MeltLeftism

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Contributor: Paul Flint

Leftfield are hardly what you’d call prolific. They put out two studio albums prior to the millennium before condensing from two to one as Paul Daley departed, leaving Neil Barnes as the solo member of the band. Then, apart from the odd track, compilation and contributions to soundtracks, nothing much was forthcoming until a third studio album appeared in 2015.

So a few months ago putting a top 10 together would have been easier (or harder depending on your point of view) but with new songs elbowing their way into my consciousness things needed a rejig. Of course the issue with new tracks from a beloved artist is whether they are as strong as you believe and if they can last the test of time. For me the best way to find that out is to see them live, see how they make you feel and watch the crowd’s reaction. Fortunately, Leftfield toured as soon as the new album was released and I was able to put that to the test.

Dance music began in 1989. Well, it did for me. An innocent from a small Midland town suddenly thrust into the craziness of Madchester may have gone one of two ways; forcing me to skulk back home or dive head first into what was happening and stay for the long haul. Well, I’m still here. One reason is my appreciation of electronica developed in the 90s with the burgeoning club scene in the city during that decade. Ironically, however, it was on a visit home that I discovered the beauty of techno music, in a dark dingy bedsit, by one of Leftfield’s contemporaries, Underworld. I was hooked and a love affair with these minimalist-tinged electronic beats was born.

Leftfield’s first album, Leftism, holds a special place in my heart as part of my awakening to the repetitive beat. As I’ve already intimated, my love for Underworld’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman remains undimmed as the album that started my appreciation of dance music. But it was Leftism which captures the feel, the spirit, of mid-90s dance music. The power it holds for me cannot be underestimated. It’s an album that needs to be listened to from start to finish. The challenge was to isolate tracks that capture the essence. I was tempted to just say, play this, this is my 10 track choice, this is Leftfield in a nutshell. As it happened, 7 out of 10 did make it.

Melt into Song Of Life is an obvious start. The laid-back electronica of Melt leads into the chilled out repetitive chanting on Song Of Life, drums building slowly, methodically. Then, suddenly, the sound opens up, like the sun rising over the city; changes, grows, twists into a furious bass thumping hands in the air club anthem.

Open Up is a strange, beautiful beast. The uplifting bouncing music mixing with Lydon’s dark dystopian lyrics, layers, builds and fades before disappearing off into simmering nothingness.

My love for Original is a simple one. It features Toni Halliday, lead singer of Curve. Their debut Doppelgänger was one of my albums of the nineties and remains a masterpiece. Her thin spoken vocals drifting across Leftfield’s trademark driving bass and squelchy synths could be a soundtrack to a European film. A perfect track for the end of a long night.

Leftfield love dub and/or bass heavy tracks, with dance hall lyricism or African-inspired chanting driving the tracks forward. Both Inspection (Check One) and Afro Left employ these techniques to amazing effect. Meanwhile Space Shanty is just a bouncing heap of loveliness that always raises a smile.

Phat Planet from Leftfield’s second and, to my mind, weakest album Rhythm And Stealth is an amazing concoction of rhythmic bass that reverberates through your rib cage. Watching 2,000 people contort their bodies to the twisted beat is to be in awe. It remains their best and strongest tune and possibly one of the greatest techno tracks ever written, perfectly crafted and executed.

I’ve picked two tracks from the latest album, Alternative Light Source. Universal Everything, a huge stomper of a tune that layers and builds to a satisfying twisting crescendo, muscles its way into this top 10. Live it is quite the beast of a track. Little Fish, featuring Channy Leaneagh of Poliça, is yet another bass driven track with twisted vocals dragging you forward. It sounds huge live.

For me, Leftfield’s best work is when they concentrate on the construction of tracks that make you move, tracks that twist and turn and make people throw shapes in the church of music. This is what (most) of these 10 tracks represent and they are a perfect introduction to Leftfield’s output, an antidote to the proliferation of EDM.

 

 

Leftfield official website

Not Forgotten – The UK Leftfield site

Leftfield biography (iTunes)

Thanks to BBC6 Music and like-minded music lovers on Twitter, Paul Flint @CloningPandas (the tall one, standing at the back, nodding) rekindled his love for music and discovered the joy of gigging once again. He now writes about it over at Beaten Generation

TopperPost #475

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