LHF - Keepers of the Light

Milford Sound in New Zealand I have been a fan of LHF for a long time and only now do I understand why. The mysterious London collective (Aman Ra, Double Helix, No Fixed Abode, Low Density Matter and more) released the first 'Keepers of the Light' volume back in 2009 and back then I couldn't (try as I might) get Tobias to like them as I did. The individual efforts of the artists always failed to impress. What I realise now is that we both saw LHF as a group of auteurs who produced their own musical products for the combined benefit of the group when in fact I had been getting off on the grand ebb and flow of the mix all along, the kind of meta-narrative created by the interweaving of samples and loops and the broader aesthetic picture of the LHF vision. 

The fact is, me and Tobias are too fucking young to have come from a pirate radio background and between us we know relatively little about UK bass. But LHF's charm comes from their intimate pirate routes: their anonymity, the ephemerality of the tunes (requiring an enormous amount of dedication to keep up with), not to mention the rasta-isms, movie samples or the dubstep grooves that hit with the malevolence of a cartoon super-villain. LHF were and are interesting because they are an antidote to the canonical approval and musical homogeny of the record labels on one side and the internets commodification of micro-trendiness on the other. Instead, LHF pump out vibes in a way that seems removed from the usual media circles and hence puristic and primal which is why this album is such a joy. 

The group are, according to legend, sitting on an inordinately large mass of tracks, so you imagine that their 120 minute LP would contain a few gems, and it does, several actually. Amen Ra's 'Candy Rain' stands out as a beautifully bright but restrained masterpiece at the albums third track, with its extravagant synth flares and post-dub bass line it exemplifies the kind of musical uninhibition that I had once loved about James Blake (but let's not go there). The murkier, more dubstep savvy vibes of the album's first third reach a peak at Double Helix's 'Supreme Architecture' pushing the atmospherics to a giddying high before charging into a kind of evil Bollywood breakbeat. The middle of the LP takes a decided turn however to the headdier, slower, experimental tracks: Amen Ra's 'Simple Things', 'Low Maintenance'  and No Fixed Abode's 'Stranglands' all of which pivot on a certain tone or sound at near brutal intensity and slowly release their rhythmic gratification. The final part of the album elucidates the kind of ambiguous world-step vibes that usually fall in Amen Ra's domain but best come to light on Double Helix's 'Inferno' or the bonus track 'Sonoluminescence', with their exotic Middle Eastern, Indian and African influences. 

LHF are in a whole different universe, as Amen Ra has stated "We want to create our own world or system" and its for this exact reason that my review of this album is so outrageously biased. I certainly can't judge them alongside any other approximate artists because I am too far enmeshed in the LHF universe. I am not entirely convinced that this album would impress many people who weren't previously fans. In fact, many tracks are simply edits of tracks from the previous 'Keepers' works and much like the mixes themselves the enjoyment comes from the integration of certain familiar sounds and samples. No Fixed Abode's 'Sunset', for instance, opens with a sample from Exhale London's 'Somuchtogive' only reversed. Obviously this kind of pirate-esque fandom would be lost on new listeners but its the repetition and the rewiring of these little vibes and sonic hooks that make the LHF universe so enthralling. From a fan's perspective at least, this album is a fantastic showcase of one of Britain's most intriguing groups in a format that gives their work a certain space for immersive and repeated listening. However, the tracks on their own do not amount to more than the sum of their parts to a listener unfamiliar with the expansive meta-narrative from which the tracks are mosiac'd. 

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