BEF is electronic soul and gospel formed from the ashes of Sheffield electronic groups, The Human League and Heaven 17.
After the original Heaven 17 split, producer Martyn Ware and programmer Ian Craig Marsh set up BEF (British Electric Foundation) to produce classic pop covers done with electronic equipment. The featured tracks are from their 1991 album “Music of Quality and Distinction Volume 2”.


From the blurb in the promo EP for the album:


“The fragmented development of contemporary dance music has tended to mask an often startling array of unexpected influences. In fact the history of modern soul is a history of buried reference points. For instance, many of New York’s more adventurous hip hop producers, most notably Mantronik, have named early eighties’ British electro-pop pioneers like New Order, Depeche Mode and Human League as their most important mentors.

“Likewise, Kevin Saunderson, the man behind the Detroit techno-pulse of Inner City and the producer of a sound that kick started the Euro-house deluge that continues apace today. One of Saunderson’s reference points was Heaven 17, a Sheffield collective that grew out of the Human League and released 1981’s “Penthouse & Pavement” album, an iconoclastic merging of future tech and street funk. Here the studio and the street collided and the strident synthetic sway of a song like “We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang” managed to define the moment like no other single that year – political protest and pristine, state of the art studio production in total harmony.

“Heaven 17 were Martyn Ware, Ian Craig Marsh and Glenn Gregory and their iconoclastic philosophy pushed music as a corporate creative business venture rather than relying on the tried and tested formula of the rock group identity. This corporate personality reached its logical manifestation with the formation of BEF in 1982. Against a backdrop of intense change in both the marketing and medium of pop music product – the rise of pop video, the birth of the Walkman, the imminence of the Compact Disc – BEF released their ultra-modern songs for the post-modern marketplace. “Music for Stowaways” was a perfect case in point, a cassette only collection of ambient soundtracks for the Walkman generation.

“Originally, BEF’s main creative core was producer Martyn Ware and programmer Ian Craig Marsh, the production team behind the Human Leagues huge selling albums “Reproduction” and “Travelogue”. Ware came up with the original idea for “Music of Quality and Distinction Volume 1”, 1982’s collection of classic pop song covers that twinned BEF’s synthetic dance-funk with various guest vocalists.

“The soul connection continues apace with the imminent release of “Music of Quality and Distinction Volume 2”, a full ten years after its precursor. Most of the songs have been chosen by producer Martyn Ware, and speak volumes about his enduring love of the vintage soul lineage.

“Alongside the almost total dedication to classic soul covers, the record aims for a hybrid techno-live sound, the full range of studio hardware being brought to bear on a live feel that pays homage to the immediacy of many of the original recordings. The first single, Lalah Hathaway’s treatment of Sly Stone’s exultant “Family Affair” is a case in point. A free floating futuristic post-House studio rhythm taking the song’s timeless message into the cutting edge of current pop taste.”

BEF – Family Affair (feat. Lalah Hathaway)

BEF – Don’t Know Why I Love You (feat. Green Gartside)

~ by acidted on July 30, 2008.

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