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Essential listening: Leftfield

Essential listening: Leftfield

Jemima Skala | Features & Interviews

If you’ve never explicitly listened to Leftfield before, there’s a strong chance that you will have heard their music played out without realising it’s theirs. Active mostly in the early 90s, Leftfield offered an alternative to the commercialised American version of house music that was popular in clubs at the time, paving the way for producers and artists to work under the label of progressive house. Their first LP Leftism remains one of the most influential albums for dance music and culture. With a spree of festival dates coming up this summer, get acquainted with our selection of Leftfield’s finest tunes so you can dazzle your pals with your niche knowledge.

Release The Pressure 
Maybe the most iconic of Leftfield tracks, ‘Release The Pressure’ embodies the essence of what Leftfield stands for. Featuring vocals from reggae singer Earl Sixteen, it starts off deceptively ambient, the flutes hovering mystically above the sonar-like synth. Then when the two iconic drum hits come in on the end of the phrase, you know the party has really started. Even now, it’s easy to see why this single had such an impact upon its release in 1992 and changed the face of dance music forever.

Head and Shoulders by Leftfield and Sleaford Mods 
Taken from their 2015 album Alternative Light Source, ‘Head and Shoulders’ is the collaboration that no one knew they needed, but now you have it you can’t imagine what life would have been like without it. Leftfield adds a heavier dimension to the chopped-up samples and Macbook loops of Sleaford Mods, coming together to create a danceable ennui with a nihilistic groove.

Open Up feat. John Lydon 
This track proves that dance music can be punk too, man. The heavy beats and biting guitar sample, paired with John Lydon’s desperate, possessed vocals, create a feeling that is just as iconoclastic and anti-establishment as anything found in Westwood and McLaren’s Sex boutique. The break sees Lydon quivering through the refrain, “burn Hollywood burn/Taking down Tinseltown”, leading us in his mad circus with middle fingers staunchly raised. The ending reggae breakdown slows it all down a moment, offering respite for a few minutes while not quite letting you forget the original intensity.

Dusted feat. Roots Manuva 
From their second album Rhythm and Stealth, released in 1999, this track shows how closely Leftfield have their ear to the ground when it comes to finding the Next Big Thing. Released the same year that Roots Manuva released his debut album, the vocals were in fact recorded in 1997, long before he had known any mainstream success as a solo artist. His flow is well-paired with throbbing pulse of Leftfield’s instrumental, and it proves an interesting touchstone for what Roots Manuva’s style would develop into.

Phat Planet 
This song is so expertly manoeuvred by Leftfield that you have no choice but just to let go completely and let them guide you to wherever you’re meant to be. From the distorted bongo solos to the slowed-down respite before you’re thrown back in again at the deep end, ‘Phat Planet’ shows the youngsters what dance music really is. It’s serious in its endeavours, showing off the expertise of its producers, and the driving rhythm will keep you dancing right through until switch-on.

Leftfield play the first day of Arcadia’s 10th anniversary festival in London on Saturday 5th May, appearing at Olympic Park alongside the likes of Sven Väth and Groove Armada. They will also appear at Electric Fields at Scotland’s Drumlanrig Castle, which takes place between Friday 31st August and Sunday 2nd September.

Photo courtesy of Leftfield

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Essential listening: Leftfield

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