At last! The long-awaited Leftfield album 'Rhythm & Stealth' is finally finished and ready for release on Hard Hands/Higher Ground on 20 September. Here's a track by track breakdown of the new material.
Leftfield are definitely flying the flag for out-there electronica. There's nothing on this album that is vaguely 'commercial'. They have made little effort to make it acceptable to the broad audience they are aiming at. It makes the Chemical Brothers sound like S Club 7. Which is great news for the future of electronic music, as the scope of what is considered to be commercial expands to accomodate this new music.
The LP starts with a low slung rap track that owes more to Renegade Soundwave than Biggie Smalls or Fatboy Slim. And there's a distinct lack of anything approaching a 'chorus' in the conventional sense. But the Leftfield throb still manages to suck you in.
Next up is the already familiar, fast, furious and fantastic 'Phat Planet'. You saw it on TV in the Guinness Ad with the horses and the surfer; you searched for one of the limited 10 inch promos; now it's here, standing out as one of the best and most lively cuts on the LP and coming on the b-side of the first single 'Afrika Shox' too.
Leftfield go reggae with a typical Hard Hands style skanking workout complete with vocals. It begins "I would rather live my life as a poor man rather than a life of corruption..." Setting the scene for a laid-back groove with an authentic 70s dub feel.
The purest, most straight-ahead galloping techno thing on the album. It sounds like the machines were turned on and left to run for the duration. Again, there's nothing in particular to hook you in except for the relentless groove that somehow, by the end of the tune, feels like it is enough to satisfy.
The first Balaeric-style ambient selection, a tune that would not sound out of place on a 'Cafe Del Mar' or 'Real Ibiza' compilation. It's deep, moving and slightly dark, like a sunny day with a storm cloud on the horizon.
"Let's get electrified!" Bambaataa raps before an old skool vocodered vocal cuts in. "2000 is on the way; 2000 has been here since yesterday," he continues, in his usual coherent manner. But don't worry too much about the lyrics, this electro hip hop cut is all about groove. Close your eyes and see any festival crowd going off to this pleasingly gritty cut.
Simple but effective electronic dub beats. Again no real tune to speak of, but plenty of grunge and echo fx keeping the main riff moving along. Avant garde electronic music.
As the last synth gargle of 'Dub Gussett' disappears down the drain, in comes the stringy pads and distorted vocals of this tune, an office favourite. Each tiny sound takes its place in the mix - there's not a lot there, but everything feels like it's in the right place. A tiny percussion sound takes the lead before it's replaced by a biscuit tin snare. A lot of the time it's more atmosphere and rhythm than anything else. An object lesson in the 'less is more' theory of recording electronic music.
A distorted kick and various other out-there percussion elements take the lead on this cut which, no surprises, uses the 6/8 'Dr Who' rhythm, rather than the usual 4/4. There's more old skool Studio One dub FX and, that's about all.
No beats and some nice synth keyboard solos on this closer with a dawn-on-Ibiza Balaeric feel. Deep, satisfying, brooding, with a moody undercurrent. And a few distant wailing voices.
(review nicked from 'DJ', dated September 1999)