Solid Gold: How Leftfield's 'Leftism' united digital music in post-rave Britain

Bastardisation has lengthy been on the coronary heart of the British musical soul. The Beatles had it, tying up US R&B into fantastic new types within the 1960s; David Bowie had it, subsuming every part from disco to drones into his individualistic musical world; and within the 90s Leftfield had it, their mighty debut album ‘Leftism’ uniting the musical melting pot of post-rave Britain underneath the regular thump of the home beat. “Everything I’d ever been into got here collectively and we ploughed it into ‘Leftism’,” Paul Daley, half of the duo alongside Neil Barnes, instructed The Guardian. “Suddenly, you would re-examine the entire historical past of pop – admittedly on medication.”

The complete historical past of pop may be pushing it barely. But a fast have a look at the co-writes and options on ‘Leftism’ reveals how far Leftfield went seeking inspiration for his or her debut album: Jamaican reggae vocalist Earl Sixteen sings on album opener ‘Release The Pressure’; ‘Afro Left’ options Kevin Hayes on the berimbau; ‘Song of Life’ samples Bulgarian ethno singer Yanka Rupkina; and Toni Halliday, the singer in goth shoegazers Curve, lends her icy vocal inflections to ‘Original’. 

This eclecticism positioned ‘Leftism’ within the multifarious lineage of rave. But behind this lay the guiding hand of one other British musical mainstay: punk. Both Barnes and Daley began out in punk bands and ‘Leftism’ was, in lots of means, a continuation of their work. But ‘Leftism’ isn’t punk within the reductionist sense of buzzsaw guitars, low-cost melodies and postcard Mohicans; ‘Leftism’ is punk within the DIY, try-everything spirit of The Clash. If ‘Leftism’ has a punk equal, it's The Clash’s ‘London Calling’, the second when the band exploded out to new musical genres, utilizing punk as a guiding drive fairly than musical straightjacket.

Two incidents confirmed ‘Leftism’’s place within the passing of the punk baton. Daley instructed The Guardian that The Clash’s Joe Strummer got here into the studio someday when he and Barnes have been recording ‘Leftism’ and was so impressed by ‘Inspection (Check One)’ that he requested him to play it once more, the 2 finally turning into buddies. More clearly ‘Open Up’ options an incendiary visitor vocal from John Lydon, offering a late profession spotlight for the previous Sex Pistol and a high 20 hit for Leftfield. As good as Lydon’s vocal was, although, Leftfield have been to not be upstaged on their very own music, their thunderous manufacturing matching Lydon’s contribution for vim, vigour and pus, the distorted trill of a 303 bouncing off a livid breakbeat in a present of digital power.

Of course, it might be unfaithful to say that home and techno had been averse to mixing it up with completely different musical genres earlier than ‘Leftfism' got here alongside. Some of the very first home data integrated Latin influences, whereas Basic Channel had outlined dub techno again within the early 90s. But Latin music was very a lot a US factor, whereas Basic Channel’s use of dub resulted in deep, underground classics that felt like they could disintegrate if taken out of a Berlin membership basement. 

‘Leftism’ was completely different. It was unashamedly large and British, for a begin, its rampant digital catholicism rubbing up in opposition to an unlimited, poppy sound. Almost instantly, ‘Leftism’ grew to become a mainstream hit, transporting Leftfield into the realms of stadium techno alongside The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers. 

Solid Gold: How Leftfield's 'Leftism' united electronic music in post-rave Britain

There is a confidence to the album, too, which appeared to seize you by the ears and demand that you just listened. This brashness sat properly with the period through which ‘Leftism’ was launched. The 1990s have been a very good time to be British, as rave’s optimism fed into political change and the Conservative Party’s decrepit management lastly breathed its final in May 1997. You can really feel this optimism surge by way of ‘Leftism’, an album that appeared to know instinctively you have been going to love it and wouldn’t budge an inch even when you didn’t. ‘Leftism’ felt like rave’s burly large brother. This was rave that had grown up, purchased a strong pair of footwear and a heat jacket however nonetheless favored to occasion; rave you would take heed to whereas washing the dishes or within the automobile along with your mum. ‘Leftism’ was successful in middle-class dinner events, dingy scholar digs and large home golf equipment, at dwelling in all three with out each actually belonging to anybody. 

Key to this are ‘Leftism’’s hooks. The album is shot by way of with huge, all-encompassing hooks that keep in your head for days, from ‘Open Up’s’ coruscating refrain to ‘Afro Left’s’ addictive berimbau line. And the hooks may come from all over the place - even the drum fills are catchy - making ‘Leftism’ one in all dance music’s most memorable albums. Even now, there are 90’s ravers who will be lowered to a Proust-ian reminiscence gap by the opening 303 riff on ‘Song of Life’ alone.

The album sounded extremely large too. Leftfield have been - and certainly nonetheless are - an unimaginable reside act, susceptible to creating plaster fall from venue partitions and so they reworked this power onto vinyl. The drums on ‘Song of Life’ sound as if they're hewn out of mountain, an unlimited granite slab of echoing noise, whereas bass rumble on ‘Inspection (Check One)’ is menacing sufficient even on pc audio system to make you contemplate a go to to the ENT.