Random jukebox – Leftfield Halliday

The one and only rule of the random jukebox is that we can’t have the same artist more than once every two years, and since it’s now two years since we last had Leftfield, we’re now allowed another selection from them. I couldn’t find the video for this online, but let’s enjoy this great (if woefully short) performance from Top of the Pops:

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Greatest Hits – Vol. 11

Time for another selection of reviews that you might have missed in the last year or two.

You can also see Vol. 10 here.

Stowaway Awards 2018

After all the excitement of previous years, I’ve decided to tone down the Stowaway Awards a little this year, with just six categories. Here they are, with the full lists of nominees!

Best Track

Nominees:

  • Depeche Mode – Where’s the Revolution
  • Erasure – Be Careful What You Wish for!
  • Gary Numan – My Name is Ruin
  • Goldfrapp – Become the One
  • Kraftwerk – Radioaktivität
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – As We Open, So We Close
  • Pet Shop Boys – Reunion
  • Saint Etienne – Whyteleaf
  • Sparks – Scandinavian Design
  • Yazoo – Only You

We announced the winner already – it’s Depeche Mode.

Best Album

Nominees:

  • Depeche Mode – Spirit
  • Erasure – World Be Gone
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  • Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  • Sparks – Hippopotamus

The winner is Depeche Mode.

Best Reissue / Compilation

Nominees:

  • Liza Minnelli – Results
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury: B Sides & Bonus Material
  • Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  • Pet Shop Boys – Release
  • Pet Shop Boys – Yes

The winner is Pet Shop Boys, for Release.

Best Artist

Nominees:

  • Depeche Mode
  • Erasure
  • Goldfrapp
  • Saint Etienne
  • Sparks

This year’s winner is Sparks.

Best Live Act

Nominees:

  • Jean-Michel Jarre
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • múm

The winner is Jean-Michel Jarre.

Outstanding Contribution

Nominees:

  • David Bowie
  • Vince Clarke
  • The Future Sound of London
  • Leftfield
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

The winner: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Stowaway Awards 2018 – Nominations

Apart from the Best Track category, which will be awarded based on the “top tracks of 2017” that we listed here on the run-up to Christmas, there are just five other categories in this year’s all-important Stowaway Awards. Here are the nominees:

Best Album

  • Depeche Mode – Spirit
  • Erasure – World Be Gone
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury
  • Saint Etienne – Home Counties
  • Sparks – Hippopotamus

Best Reissue / Compilation

  • Liza Minnelli – Results
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – The Punishment of Luxury: B Sides & Bonus Material
  • Pet Shop Boys – Nightlife
  • Pet Shop Boys – Release
  • Pet Shop Boys – Yes

Best Artist

  • Depeche Mode
  • Erasure
  • Goldfrapp
  • Saint Etienne
  • Sparks

Best Live Act

  • Jean-Michel Jarre
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • múm

Outstanding Contribution

  • David Bowie
  • Vince Clarke
  • The Future Sound of London
  • Leftfield
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Leftfield – Alternative Light Source

It took Leftfield sixteen years to return with Alternative Light Source. In the 1990s, the duo of Neil Barnes and Paul Daley released just two albums, but their dark and exotic electronic dance music was both unique and enormously influential. They skipped an entire decade, before returning in 2010, now without Daley but with a score of guest vocalists instead, and toured for a couple of years before eventually returning with new material in 2015.

The third album opens with a brilliant robotic vocal from Tunde Adebimpe, on the track Bad Radio. It’s fantastic. The huge warping bass and eccentric synth sounds have echoes of Leftism (1995) and Rhythm and Stealth (1999), while at the same time sounding new and contemporary – and also very catchy.

Second track Universal Everything, with Georgia Barnes providing some other-worldly vocals, is simply banging. It’s a huge club piece, deeper and darker than anything on the first two albums, but still with a bit of an unusual twist.

Channy Leaneagh from Poliça turns up to deliver the vocal on Bilocation. It’s rhythmic and hypnotic, not unlike the last single from the second album, Swords. Then for perhaps one of the oddest tracks on here, Sleaford Mods turn up to deliver the exceptional Head and Shoulders, a bizarre poetic piece full of obscure words and even odder concepts, but one which comes together brilliantly.

Nearing the halfway point of the album, most of the collaborations are complete. A simple arpeggiator melody drives Dark Matters, referencing some of Leftfield‘s pre-Leftism material, and before Channy Leaneagh turns up again for another oddity, Little Fish, which bounces along with an almost contemporary rave feel for six minutes, and that theme continues with Storms End, the instrumental track which follows.

Leftfield always have something unexpected up their sleeves, and so the title track Alternative Light Source opens with a gentle strummed acoustic guitar riff, and although it gets big, it never really builds into anything too enormous. Honestly it’s a welcome break from the banging beats which have characterised the album up to now.

If you approach this album expecting to be rocked in the way the previous two albums changed your world, you might be disappointed – this might even be a better album for people who have never heard any Leftfield before – but it does have a sound of its own, and it’s unique in the way that Leftfield always were. It does have its low points though – Shaker Obsession is fine, but far from special, but prudently this album only has ten tracks, so you never really get bored, and this is the penultimate one anyway, so you should really know what this album is all about by now.

Alternative Light Source closes with the adorable Levitate for You, with Ofei. It’s deep and downtempo, and honestly I’d have loved a few more tracks like this. But what do I know? This is a great way to close the album, even if it comes on its own.

With a reputation as solid as Leftfield‘s, a lot of people were inevitably going to be disappointed by this album, but honestly it’s a strong comeback, and it does leave you hoping for more. If you want to stick with the two era-defining albums from the 1990s, that’s your choice too, but I’d definitely recommend the third one too.

You can find Alternative Light Source at all major retailers.

Chart for stowaways – 4 June 2016

These are the albums for this week:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Super
  3. New Order – Music Complete
  4. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine
  5. Conjure One – Holoscenic
  6. Róisín Murphy – Hairless Toys
  7. David Bowie – Changesonebowie
  8. David Bowie – Best Of Bowie
  9. Little Boots – Working Girl
  10. Leftfield – Alternative Light Source

Chart for stowaways – 21 May 2016

Here are this week’s top albums:

  1. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Super
  3. Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine
  4. New Order – Music Complete
  5. Conjure One – Holoscenic
  6. Róisín Murphy – Hairless Toys
  7. David Bowie – Best of Bowie
  8. Little Boots – Working Girl
  9. Brian Eno – The Ship
  10. Leftfield – Alternative Light Source