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LFO's Mark Bell, Electronic Music Pioneer and Crucial Warp Signee, Dies at 43

How a former teenage breakdancer became one of the greatest innovators of early UK electronic music.

Sad news indeed: Mark Bell of the pioneering electronic music act LFO has died, according to his longtime label Warp.

"It is with great sadness that we announce the untimely passing of Mark Bell who died last week from complications after an operation," a statement on the Warp site reads. "Mark's family & friends request privacy at this difficult time."

Along with his partner-in-crime Gez Varley, Bell was a seminal part of the UK's early-90s electronic music scene, and a pioneer of the subgenre of bass-heavy, North England techno known as bleep. As one of Warp Record's first signings, LFO also helped to put the fledgling Sheffield label on the map. Their signature sound—a capricious mix of jacking Chicago house, lush Detroit techno and dry Yorkshire wit—would come to define early British techno.


Bell met Varley while breakdancing in a mall as a teenager. After bonding over their shared sense of humor and record collections, the duo released their rave classic "LFO" on Warp in 1990. The single became a massive crossover hit, earning the number 12 spot on the UK charts, and hanging around there for some ten weeks. Their debut album Frequencies came out the next year, and is one of the greatest albums to come out of the acid house boom.

After Varley left LFO in 1996, Bell continued the project as a solo act, releasing two more albums—1996's Advance, and 2003's brilliant Sheath, featuring the track "Freak." (You might recognize it from the spastic opening sequence of Enter the Void). Bell's mid-90s releases for R&S Records under the name Speed Jack and Carl Craig's Planet E as Clark showed how visceral and thrilling his music could be.

But Bell story doesn't end with LFO. The talented producer worked closely with Björk on many of her albums, including 1997's Homogenic and her Selmasongs soundtrack for Lars Von Trier's Dancer in the Dark. He also produced Depeche Mode's last great album, 2001's Exciter, bringing a certain elegance to their sound.

Bell's live sets never disappointed either. Only last month, he laid waste to Krakow's Forum Przestrzenie at a rave celebrating Warp's 25th anniversary. When asked about his musical legacy in a rare interview in 2005, Bell said, "We just made music that moves us, there was no concern for anyone else… I'm really flattered when people say it moves them too!"