The most anticipated record of the year for fans of British techno, LFO's Sheath is another masterpiece from the pen of Mark Bell, though much of it sounds cobbled together from previous projects. While 1996's Advance foreshadowed electronica's emphasis on dirty percussion and grinding effects lines, Sheath has only a few tracks along those lines; the rest ranges from gauzy electronic pop to jarring yet brittle techno hardcore to deep subbass reminiscent of the first few LFO singles. Ethereal and richly melodic, the opener, "Blown," sounds like a valentine to Björk, whose 1997 masterpiece Homogenic was produced by Bell. While the second track (the relentlessly percussive "Mum-Man") is as harsh as the previous was gentle, most of Sheath is given over to down-tempo work, like the beautiful "Sleepy Chicken" -- though, true to form, it's followed by a stark, vocoder-led bleep nightmare, the single "Freak." Listeners might recognize the same synth patches on "Unafraid to Linger" that made Autechre's Tri Repetae one of the most otherworldly records in electronic music. No concept, few forms to mark a shift in LFO's sound; just a set of productions that prove, once again, Bell is the most imaginative producer in British techno.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by John Bush