Advance. Two albums since 1990. LFO are hardly prolific. Yet they
have become electronic pioneers; hypnotic revolutionaries, with a sparse
ambient acidic sound.
I remember when Frequencies
was first released. Warp records was on every lip, electronica was
extending its influence in all directions and the now legendary Artificial
Intelligence series was in its infancy. A friend of mine, upon first
hearing the album, boldly stated that
"Frequencies is a great
album. The electronic equivalent of any Beatles release."
To the uninitiated it must
have sounded like a mesh of sounds, industrial and odd, bound together
by scarce and filtered vocals and repetitive beats. An anomaly in a sea
of Pop chart sugar sweetness and tart-tired rock. But to the Warp
devoted, the acolytes of the electronic temple, Frequencies was
an immediate classic. A fine example of musical intelligence in a dance
scene seemingly obsessed with breakbeat madness and fashion status.
Take the smash LFO for
example. Mark Bell and Gez Varley, along with one timer Williams, score
into plastic and synapse a landmark track filled with smooth bleeps, astral
strings and an ominous trademark bass to shake the walls. I should know,
I've pumped it that loud many times!
Listen then to Nurture.
Cosmic jazz, a riff slowly mutated by sequencer smarts and clever additions.
Typical LFO. Take an odd noise and make a melody out of it. All
very scientific of course, clever and clinical, but delicately tinged with
electronic organics so that each excursion becomes its own biology.
A handful of remixes. A little
production work by Bell. Some drawn out Warp propaganda and finally,
years after Frequencies, Advance, the second album hits the
Now it seems that Varley has
left to pursue other projects and Bell pops up occasionally on electro
compilations or bracketed as the remixer for Bjork.
Times have changed. Bleep
music is now a fading memory. Dance culture no longer needs to strive to
be accepted. And many other artists have equalled if not surpassed the
once heaviest bass in the business. The Low Frequency Oscillators need
to prove themselves once more. Prove to the faithful that they are more
than one great album. That they can still influence the way things happen.
Advance is neon orange.
Almost as if to stand out in the crowded CD shelves, packed with electronica.
Choice everywhere. No longer the prime concern of Warp, now moving
into mellower sounds and going with the flow of the culture. But LFO
still sparks a rush of memories and excitement in the gut. I rush out to
Advance is a plenty
full pot of beats, tinkling along, backed with bass and thickets of tiny
subtle chords. It is characteristic, yet it seems to lack inspiration.
Loch Ness builds from a gorgeous ambience and then assails with
treble and a horde of beats which drown everything out. Shove Piggy
Shove is cosmic jazz at its best. Classic and comfortable under the
LFO aegis. But where is Varley? Glancing at the inner sleeve we
see that Bell is basically the brains behind this offering. And the likes
of Kombat Drinking, undersigned with the customary Bell/Varley monickers
is nothing more than wasted hard beats sounding tired and heavy on the
It's hard to listen to this
album and not think of what used to be.
I remember how things were.
When Richard H Kirk and DJ Parrot compiled CCCD under the name of
Sweet Exorcist. WARPCD1. Electronic culture was forward looking
and inspired by the past. We still had Rave and Jungle to look forward
to and it seemed then that sonic boundaries still needed to be pushed.
"All things must
change", Wayne G