Greetings, Glancers! It’s another trip into supposed musical goodness today as I listen to an album I know absolutely nothing about but an artist I’m not sure I’ve even heard of. Yet it’s like 59th in Colin Larkin’s Best Albums ever. I have a feeling this was a 90s Dance act, something is stirring in my brain and saying ‘of course you know them, you noob, you’ve just forgotten them because they were crap’. So before I type the next sentence, I’m going to head to Wikipedia and grab the tracklist – that should confirm or disprove my inner monologue. Ah ha – there was a typo in my list – the group is actually called Leftfield. That doesn’t help me in any way, but as I discovered that I saw in fact that they are (were?) a 90s Dance act. So my brain was correct for a change. Somewhere in the recesses of my sub-conscious there must be a buried memory of this act or one of their tunes. I have no idea what that could be, but clearly I knew something of them once upon a time. I have nothing to add, aside from to remind you that I didn’t like most 90s Dance music. Lets do this.
What Do I Know About Leftfied: I assumed correctly they were a 90s Dance act.
What Do I Know About Leftism: It’s an album by Leftfield
‘Release The Pressure‘ opens with twinkling and blips and blaps. It’s eerie and evocative. It has that feeling of building up to something that I enjoy. Afrikaans whistle. Bloke voice. This is somewhat familiar. This section ends and a collection of throbs somewhere between Reggae and typical rave emerges. This part isn’t as interesting to me, it sounds a little… cheap? Certainly dated, but I can’t really criticise it for being over twenty years old. It does however have that Shaggy-esque accent vocal crap going on in the background. I like the atmosphere, but it feels too slow. What a minute. Did Leftfield do a Manics remix? Maybe that’s why I know them. Let me google…Nope, can’t find anything. The track goes on for another couple of minutes.
‘Afro Left‘ has some jangling strings and African voices, then a tribal drum, then a full on 90s beat. It has a beat, I’ll give it that. But it’s a bit shit. I’m not a dance guy. This to me is just some bloke talking, your standard 90s beat, with irritating clap quality alongside it, and some throbby bits. Now there’s a Dalek. I’m sure this would be the best thing ever if you were off your tits on pills, but literally anything is the best thing ever when off your tits on pills.
‘Melt‘ sounds like the start of the Second Delays album. Jazzy bits, laid back. It’s relaxing, feels like it was used in a movie. Hoo hum. Not much to say, it’s just plain, nice, nothing wrong. Just a little meh.
‘Song Of Life‘ like a blob of jelly wobbling downstairs. More ethnic voices. Drums drop. Again, it’s nice, relaxing. I can see this being seen as a higher art form than your standard dance garbage. I mean, it hasn’t pissed me off yet, so it must be doing something right. But it doesn’t excite me in any way. Now, I like the strings which have just joined, but it’s another song which feels more like a mood, like relaxing in the middle of an unknown land. Nothing wrong with that, but plenty of other music makes me feel the same way but more readily and with more feeling. I don’t get much emotion from this, as much as it is making me feel, or absorb that mood. Good bass drop to spruce things up. This is more like it, if only that bass drop and thumping beat had come earlier in the track. Then it goes a little crazy. Okay fine, a good tune, I could listen to this again.
‘Original‘ opens with beeps – Morse code? Then computer game loading screens and sirens. Then ethereal female vocals. Good so far. The vocals drop away and a series of beats drops. This feels a little The Matrixy. I suppose I still have a bias against Dance music that I expect it all to be, something pill heads and/or idiots dance to in clubs. Though I know that’s not the case, just the majority of what I’ve heard. I don’t really imagine anyone dancing to this, this is much more chilled and not repetitive like chart junk. But because of the bias, I do still wait for a bigger bass blast or for the speed to kick in, and it feels strange when it doesn’t.
‘Black Flute‘ is much more what the biased part of my brain expects Dance music to be. It’s marginally faster, the beat is insistent and consistent and constant, and a little tinny. This is the sort of dance music which doesn’t do much for me – it’s too repetitive and doesn’t lead anywhere. The beat will fade out at points, then come back in, but that’s about it. About as generic as Dance music comes.
‘Space Shanty‘ is a name which almost forces me to like the song. It’s another tinny beat, feels like WipEout, adds some Eastern string fun, and feels like it’s building to something. Waiting (again) for a big bass drop. Now warbling noises. Now fatter beat. Better. This one changes itself up more than the previous track, adding a little something different on each rotation. It’s still repetitive at its core, most music is, but Dance especially, but yes this does add a lot more and keeps morphing into something slightly different while retaining the pounding beat.
‘Inspection‘ has a fade in and some preaching. I’m not a fan of a lot of spoken word stuff in the middle of songs, or Jamaican type accents. This has both, and the surrounding music is very sparse and uninteresting. Mostly assorted throbs and percussion. Possibly the most boring track so far.
‘Storm 3000′ sounds like WipEout again. A little spacey, a little morphy. A bit of pace, too much percussion which to me is generally tuneless and unnecessary. A little more melody drops eventually. Then we get some synth stabs before it all pulls together nicely. The last couple of minutes are better than the first two, a lot more going on.
‘Open Up‘ fades in, then follows with more African voices. Then beats and throbs. Bits of this feel familiar. The vocals seem familiar. Ah, it’s Mr Rotten himself. They seem like they have been artificially heightened. Burn Hollywood Burn. This ones okay, I can see this one being played in clubs, though I’m not sure what people would have made of the vocals. Near the end it changes to another whispering percussion phase and then morphs around back to the intro. Lydon sounds like Spongebob.
‘21st Century Poem‘ closes the album. It’s a slow build. Chimes. Some bloke speaking in whispers. Some throbbing stuff in the background. At around the two minute mark it opens up with a lot of wobbling and flopping synth stuff. This promises to go somewhere, then doesn’t.
I don’t think I’m ever going to be someone who just decides to stick on Dance music for pleasure, but I am trying to appreciate it more. There are typically only a small handful of DJs and Dance Acts and tracks I revisit, and even those select few are rare revisits. But this is one of the better Dance albums I’ve hear – it doesn’t become annoying or make me want to stab a bunch of chavs, and it has enough variety to keep me interested, at least with a first listen. I’ll add a few tracks to my playlist, but I can’t see myself listening to them more than a couple of times. The time for me to really enjoy Dance music has passed – in my late teens, early Twenties, when you were obliged to go to places and parties which played this type of music because some of your friends enjoyed it. Now that I’m stuck at home and can’t be arsed going anywhere, the chances of me listening to this stuff have evaporated and I’m only exposing myself to it through this blog. Still, it wasn’t bad, it has more musical merit than much of the Dance Music I’ve heard, and I can see why fans view it as a classic.
What Did I Learn: That Dance music isn’t always for dancing. It’s sometimes for sitting there and wondering why it’s not for dancing too.
Does It Deserve A Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: I’ll plead ignorance again and assume it was some big hit at the time or influenced a bunch of later stuff or is the peak of whatever sub-genre of Dance it is. For me, there’s very little here I’d choose to listen to again and it didn’t affect me personally in any notable way. It wouldn’t make my personal list.
Nightman’s Playlist Picks: Song Of Life. Original. Space Shanty.