TIP: Don't compare it to Leftism Its nice in it's own right! You cannot compare much to their debut album and Leftism was such an influence to so many and changed the music business so much. My musical journey was sooo much changed by Leftism and to me Leftism is one of the great classic underground albums of all time. This album once played has some really memorable deep and twisted dubby sounds. Initially I ached for the escapism that Leftism offered but then I realised that this is a different animal. It really does become more appealing as you play it over and over and is a lovely production. I have yet to buy their 3rd album which many say its their best album since leftism. I would say buy this and if you have not listened to Leftism get both to see how they sound.
When I bought this album, my previous experience of Leftfield was limited to their two most famous tracks: the John Lydon lead Open Up and the legendary Guiness advert. However, their reputation as innovators and intelligent musicians was confirmed as soon as I put the CD on. Ten tracks; not a long album, but still a more varied one than most dance CDs, and there's not a hint of filler. Leftfield mix pounding techno, edgy rapping and soulfull chill-out togethor passionately. Because the tempo of the album varies there are natural stand-out tracks. At times the album sounds like The Future Sound of London, at others it is more familiar to fans of The Prodigy. The bassline of Phat Planet must stand-out as one of the most instantly recognisable musical pieces of the last ten years. Even today, people will recognise it instantly, despite the fact it's only claim to fame was a 30 second beer advert over five years ago. As break-beat driven techno goes, I struggle to think of another track that matches it. The album's big single, Afrika Shox, guest-starring the legendary Afrika Bambaataa is space-age big-beat with some incredible vocals. The live rapping blends with an incredible vocoded voice. Dub Gusset, 6/8 War and Double Flash are all pounding dub techno that are best appreciated through a good pair of sub-woofers. Away from this hard edged dance-floor filling music, there is another side to Leftfield that is, in its own way, just as powerful. The spaced-out singing of Swords, the warm strings of El Cid and the blissfull Rino's Prayer may not have cement-cracking basslines or awe-inspiring break-beats, but their musical strength is just as strong. Overall, for fans of artists like FSOL, Prodigy and Underworld, Rhythmn & Stealth is an absolutely essential purchase.
I must say that this album is a real grower. I remember being so wound up over it, but then being slightly disappointed after hearing it, expecting it to be anything like Leftism. But it ain't. It is a fantastic diversification from the ghost of Leftism and proves Leftfield's versatility in an ever expanding world of pop. From the pulsing madness of Phat Planet, the divine rap that is Dusted (sounds great in a car with mucho bass) and the dulcet tones of Nicole Wilis on Swords and back up again with Afrika Shox, Double Flash and 6/8 War, ther is a track for everyone here. It's definitely one of the finest albums i have ever heard, but beware Chant Of A Poor Man. It totally hammers car speakers and rattles your interior off of it's mounts. It's a killer. Drum n'Bass next please, Leftfield.
The follow-up to Leftism was always going to be a more low-key affair and Leftfield have sensibly avoided gimmicks and quietly (?) got on with the job. It might sound a little dull at first but stick with it; it's a real grower. At least three of the tracks are well-known and, yes, there are better tracks aboard as well as the apparently compulsory filler. The structures are almost simplistic at times but the moodier tracks, in particular, reveal a subtle weaving of textures and a warm soul behind the technology.....
Strange, very strange. I got this on the day of its release, fired up by Phat Planet and of course Leftism, listened to it avidly for about a month - just couldn't get enough of the dark, juicy loudness of it - but then for some reason it just slipped off my radar. I sympathise with reviewers who say there was nothing to engage with, I found that too I think. Then, completely out of the blue, the other day I suddenly had '6/8 War' going round and round my head, and it stayed there until I finally got the record out and listened to it again. What a brilliant piece of work this is. I can't believe I haven't bothered with it for so long. The dark, dubby minimalism starts looking wildly before its time - this sounds like prototype Grime almost - and the record as a whole is dense and many-layered. If you were disappointed when you bought it, try it again.
The problem of this album is its predecessor: the Leftism album, one of the greatest albums of all time (if you don't happen to know this already). However, once I got over the fact that this is not Leftism Pt II and I realised that this is a very different beast altogether, and a worthy successor. It is best listened to with the volume knob cranked up, ideally on a seriously good HiFi and with some tolerant neighbours. This album does not go for the drilling, jubilant ecstasy of Leftism, this one creates vast musical spaces with an architectural feel reminiscent of Pink Floyd or Massive Attack. It has been put together very carefully, creating some very dark spaces, and reveals itself as a true grower that is getting better with each successive listen. Thinking about it, it is not 'perhaps' great - it is truly great.
The album is to slow to in its block beats to enable comparison with leftism to be made, more akin to the mellow beats of Jay.B.Small or Chameth.M. However as a stand alone piece the album offers signs of hope to Leftfield fans, despite being lyrically limited and will ensure that the grovelling middle-class praise of these 'innovators'will continue for some time to come.