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Leftfield have penetrated the minds and music boxes of a nation since the release of their album Leftism. As the duo prepare to play live for the first time, Thom Dibdin asks how they feel.
ome music is so immediate in its effect that you can remember precisely where and when you first
Mind. the Undertones‘ Teenage Kicks and The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper 's Lonely Hearts (VIII) Band — the kind of stuff that forces you to go up to record shop counters and demand: ‘Who‘s that? I want a copy. and I want it now.‘
So it is with Leftfield‘s first album. Slap Leftism on the player in your front room late at night and it is guaranteed that within minutes you‘ll be up. dancing around and regaling the neighbours with the choicest slab of dance music to hit your decks this side of ‘Sexual Healing'.
Nor will you be alone. The album has gone gold. with over 22().()()() copies sold since it came out last year. What’s more. the band has achieved success without having played a live gig. Leftfield are the epitome of a dance act: their music stands by itself. available only in its recorded version. on black plastic platters and CDs. Music that exists simply to please the ears and motivate the feet.
‘Essentially. the music that we make is not meant to be played live.‘ agrees Neil Barnes.
‘ ,3 m,
8 The List 19 Apr-2 May 1996
heard it. Music like Nirvana‘s Never
who. along with Paul Daley. forms the band and production team that is Leftfield. Indeed. it is only now. some six years after Barnes and Daley first recorded together. that they are about to embark on their first live tour — including a date at Glasgow‘s Barrowland. ‘The whole point about it is that it‘s meant to come from nowhere.‘ continues Barnes. ‘The personalities aren‘t meant to matter. which was the initial starting point for us. But having said that. we are approaching it from a real sound
‘The personalities aren’t meant to matter, which was the initial starting point for us. But having said that, we are approaching it from a real sound
side, so that we can actually make our music feel exciting to people in a live environment.’
side. so that we can actually make our music feel exciting to people in a live environment.‘ When Barnes talks about ‘real' sounds. he means just that. Not machitie-generated noises or even prerecorded samples. but authentic instruments played live on stage. Daley will be playing a ‘massive‘ drum kit and Barnes will be in charge of percussion. playing an assortment
of weird and wonderful instruments like the berimbeau which features in the introduction to the song ‘Afro Left’. ‘lt’s sort of a piano string on the end of a bow and arrow.‘ explains Barnes. ‘The kind of percussion tool you normally only see played at jazz gigs.’
The problem for Leftfield with playing live. and part of the reason their album is so universally appealing. is that the music is vastly complex. Take that berimbeau: the half percussive. half melodic. clanking and scraping noise it creates twists and winds its way through ‘Afro Left'. Or the constantly mutating rhythms and bass line balancing the gentle vocal of ‘Song Of l.ife'.
Nor can the music be slotted into one. neat pigeon-hole — another reason for its success. While the dance scene can rightly claim Leftfield as its own. songs like ‘Original’. with vocals from (Turve‘s Toni llalliday. are perfect post-pop. Among the house beats there are dub reggae production methods. John Lydon's nasal whine features on ‘Open Up‘ with its outrageous vocal line: ‘Burn Hollywood. burn.‘ ‘Melt‘ is nothing short of the definition of the post-club chill-out zone. Just two people attempting to re-create such magnificent eclecticism in a live environment would be all
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