As great an album as LFO’s 1991 standard house text Frequencies is, even its staunchest supporters would have to admit that the record shows its years a little bit. Some of the slower songs feel a little directionless, the intro track starts off kinda goofy, and the production in general is pretty bare-bones by modern-day standards. For those around for its release, Frequencies will likely forever endure as a masterpiece; for younger listeners, it might be more of an up-and-down listen.
One of the “up”s, however, would undoubtedly be the group’s title track (above), a top 20 U.K. hit in the summer of ’91. The song is a relatively simple but absolutely captivating construction — one squelching, fluttering siren hook in conversation with a lush (though spiky) synth wave, a stabilizing bass thud, and a frenetic drum machine loop, all keyed around a disembodied voice offering the three-letter intonation: “L. F. O.” It’s funky, it’s jagged, it’s confusing, it’s pretty, and it still sounds absolutely massive 23 years later.
The most brilliant thing about the song “LFO” — and maybe the most influential, given how paramount tension-and-release is in contemporary EDM — is how it clears out for its exceedingly minimalist hook. Removing everything but the bass line for the group’s name to be so matter-of-factly stated, it implies a career’s worth of authority and mystique with just those three letters. And then when the song — beat, dueling hooks and all — comes crashing in immediately after, the message is pretty clear: This is who we are. This is what we do. Get with the program or get the fuck of the dance floor.
The career of the late Mark Bell — whose death was announced today, following complications resulting from an operation — was filled with moments like this, but none of them sound quite as definitive or undeniable as the group’s self-titled debut single. It’s a classic of its genre, and ensures in more ways than one that Bell’s name — or at the very least, the name of the outfit with which he was most closely associated — will never be forgotten.