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Leftfield's 1995 album 'Leftism' was a classic. The fact that if you put the CD on today and it still sounds as if it was released yesterday tells you everything you need to know. But I am here to review their second album, 'Rhythm and Stealth'. Those of you who have their debut album may be in for a little shock if you were expexting more of the same from their new one. 'R&S' is a much darker, more experimental album. The fact that it took them four years to produce the album shows that they put a huge amount of thought into the production. And was it worth the wait? Answer: definitely. Here is a track-by-track commentary. DUSTED A great start to the album. The distorted lyrics of Roots Manuva add substance to a pounding bass line and trademark electronic sounds. Put some headphones on, and listen to the amazing production on the third verse, when electronic blips fly around inside your head. Trippy. PHAT PLANET Rumour has it that Daley and Barnes spent 9 months on the production of this track, featured on the Guinness ad of a couple of years ago which was recently voted the greatest TV ad of all time. You all know the bass line. Add to that some complex percussion and you have one of the greatest tracks on an already brilliant album. CHANT OF A POOR MAN We now go into sort of tech-ragga, as the vocals of Cheshire cat are added to a dark electronic soundscape. Wait until about a minute and a half from the end when the track suddenly goes more tribal in sound, with drums that sound like they've been recorded in an aircraft hangar. Excellent. DOUBLE FLASH One of the more minimalist tracks on the album - this contains little more than a simple bassline and a skeletal 4/4 beat. It takes almost 2 minutes for this track to really get going, and the track is only 4 minutes long. They really know how to build up tension. EL CID After possibly the most up-tempo track on the albu
m, we now delve into ambient territory. Listen to it if only for the bass - rather reminiscent of Aphex Twin's 'Windowlicker'. Or maybe that's just me. Not the greatest track on the album, but good to calm you down before the second half of the album. AFRIKA SHOX A relatively down-tempo intro with eerie synths suddenly explodes into a big-beat meets techno anthem, with the vocals of Afrika Bambaataa. An obvious choice for the first single, this, but having said that, the track also has a very dark, sinister feel to it. The controversial video complements the track perfectly, but unfortunately, this is not on the album (unless you own the special edition of the album, including the remixes, which I do not own). DUB GUSSETT One of the weaker tracks on the album. I get the feeling that Daley and Barnes were trying to copy the style of Phat Planet too much. Or maybe it was the other way round - I don't know. Either way this is an inferior track, but considering the quality of the album so far, this is not a criticism, as the track is still great. SWORDS One of the more down-tempo tracks, bleak, slightly distorted vocals add texture to almost screeching synth strings before minimal percussion sets in. The track is actually cleverer than it first sounds, and is quite atmospheric. 6/8 WAR Another quite minimalist trak - if you're looking for a melody, you've come to the wrong place. But the most pounding bass line you have ever heard and tribal percussion makes this a winner. The album ends with 'Rino's prayer', an excellent chill out track, which calms you down for the end of the album. So ther you have it. One of the best albums I have evr heard. I find it extremely hard to criticise this CD, so buy it now.
There’s nothing like the curse of having your first album labelled a classic. It’s happened to so many bands. The questions are what do you do and where do you go with the follow up album? Every pundit and reviewer has said your debut album is one of the most ground breaking, life affirming and miraculous recordings ever put on wax. So you’ve not only got to prove that your debut wasn’t a fluke but that it’s successor has to be so much more. Welcome then to the difficult second album scenario. A classic case of having the world on your shoulders and everyone waiting for you to slip up. A situation where most bands do indeed slip up and produce an album no where near the fabled status of their debut. So it’s hello Leftfield and welcome to the disappointing second album scenario. The weight of history is always there like a ball and chain, inescapable and omnipresent, also there to say “ooh it’s not as good as the first one is it?”. The problem is Leftfield released the classic Leftism and then waited a good five years to follow it up. In that time Leftism had almost become a sacred relic. Everybody talked about in revered tones, it was cited as the classic dance album of the 90’s, a smorgasbord of all that was right with crossover music, something that appealed to the weekend raver, the dance puritan, the Indie kid and the causal record buyer. Leftfield could never live up this weight of history and with Rhythm and Stealth they joined so many others in failing the difficult second album trial by fire. The thing is Rhythm and Stealth isn’t a bad album. If it had been released by any other band it may have been hailed as something special. However it’s not Leftism 2 as so many people wanted. In fact if anything it’s a step forward as well as a step backwards for Leftfield. Rhythm and Stealth is sometimes outstanding and other times as a big a disappointment as finding out
that Santa is really your dad wearing a white wig and drunk on cheap sherry. Rhythm and Stealth begins in fine style with the track ‘Dusted‘. All dubbed out space fxs and keyboards, sleek techno beats and a planet devouring bass line. Add the icy cool vocals of Roots Manuva to the mix and simmer until your brain is slowly crushed by the slow gravitational pull of the track. ‘Dusted’ is as equally strong as the majority of tracks on Leftism and clearly shows the production skills of Barnes and Daley. An impressive track, which would probably worked better had it been later on in the album. Is that drums I hear? Oh yes baby, it’s drums alright. Track two ‘Phat Planet’ (or that song from the Guinness advert featuring the surfers and Moby Dick) is an awesome avalanche of drums. Slamming metallic beats meet a surging bass line in a simply constructed track which has the destructive power of a 747 laden with TNT crashing into the Empire State building. ‘Phat Planet’ sounds like a massive tribal drum session at the end of time, the beats threatening to raise the dead from the grave for one last triumphant dance. ‘Phat Planet’ is also perhaps the best dance floor choon to come out of the UK in a good few years. It’s those drums man. After the sure pummelling of ‘Phat Planet’, Leftfield decide to calm things down with the chilled dub of “Chant of a Poor man’ a companion piece to the more downbeat tracks from Leftism. The track features the smooth Rasta tones of MC Cheshire Cat and manages to combine the charm of old school dub with the more modern digi-dub styling of the On-U sound system. My only criticism is that it sounds like it could have easily come from any early 90’s dub dance record. Things start to slip up for Leftfield with the fourth track ‘Double Flash’. The track attempts to combine hard hitting techno beats a
nd cut off bass squelches, which may work on the dance floor but as a listening experience it highly unexciting. Thing is when your being repetive there has got to be some underlying dynamic to the experience. ’Double Flash; fails to deliver this. Leftfield then slow the pace of the album down to a crawl with the slow static ridden ambience of ‘El Cid‘. A song led by gentle pulses of melody and subtle ticking drum line. As an ambient number it’s nearly up there with ‘Melt’ from Leftism. However it’s overlong and outstays it’s welcome towards it’s end. It’s also the most experimental track that Leftfield have released, which doesn’t help it’s cause either. Just as you think Rhythm and Stealth is going into terminal nosedive, things are pulled around again with the sublime ‘Africa Shox’. The track is a tribute to the classic electro track ‘Planet Rock’ by Africa Bambaattaa and the Soul Sonic Force and unsurprisingly features Mr Bambaattaa on vocals. The track is pure electro-funk delivered in the classic Leftfield style. Heavy industrial beats join thrilling electronic swishes and whooshes and vocoded vocals in a journey into head tripping and feet moving sounds. As the man says himself “Let’s get electrified” and the track fulfils this promise. The next track, brings with it an interested question. What is a ‘Dub Gusset’? Answers on a postcard to the usual address please. The track itself is more of the cyber dub that Leftfield have been playing around with on the majority of tracks on Rhythm and Stealth. All metallic beats, sinking bass lines and dubbed out noises. Interesting but no really that inspiring. Things don’t get much better with the next track ’Swords’ which features Nichole Willis on vocals. The track is another slower number, laced with static ridden (again) Joy Division lik
e keyboards. The track remains fairly sedentary throughout. My advice is get hold of the single of this track which contains a far more hard hitting version. The final two tracks ‘6/8 War’ and ‘Rino’s prayer’ conform to the sound and structure of the rest of the album. ‘6/8 War’ is more of the heavy cyber dub without any real direction. Whilst ‘Rino’s prayer’ is more static laden ambience, helped by looped chants and a deep deep bass line. So is Rhythm and Stealth worth spending your hard earn pennies on? Well yes for a few stunning tracks (Phat Planet, Africa Shox and Dusted) but no for the rest. My advice either buy cheap or hunt down the single from the albums (all the good tracks). What Rhythm and Stealth does prove though is that failure is more likely than success when it comes to the difficult second album.
Many people considered their debut album, Leftism to be a masterpiece of dance music culture. The truth was, it really just copied and pasted the best bits of dance since 88 and nothing more. What it did show however, was that Barnes and Daley knew how to put a song and a beat together, and that they had talent. It may have taken them four years to do a follow up, but it is more than worth the wait. This album, for me is up there with Massive Attack's Blue Lines as a groundbreaking record and might not be fully appreciated for a while yet, but constant nightime listenings have convinced me this is a truly awesome 33 with a spirit and hunger all it's own. The tracks to actually define the album are the ones where the duo work without collaborators. Phat Planet, El Cid and Rino's Prayer provide the spine for the rest of the album and are powerful enough in their own rite to carry the rest of the work. They seem to reinforce the songs where the collaborations take place and give the whole album it's continuity. This is one of the very few albums I can sit down and listen to from beginning to end because each piece ebbs and flows with the next. Probably the pick of all the songs is Chant Of A Poor Man with a soulful melancholic dub beat and a great feeling of world weariness attached to it. But to pick out one is a tough call, El Cid and Dusted aren't far behind. In short, buy the album, perservere with it and reap the rewards.
This is Leftfields second album, and with such an amazing debut album (Leftism), they certainly had a lot to follow. Clearly the second was never going to out class the original, as it has become 'the' album to own in the 90's, and it's still the best album of that time. This one however has a natural follow on from the original, adding more flavour to the original Big Beat styles, and dancey rhythms. From the second you start playing Dusted you know you're in for a rich treat! Phat Planet is a great song that requires extra loud playing, Chant of a Poor Man is fantastic and is one of the best songs from Leftfield. Africa Shox is a truly excellent song also adding some cultural elements to the album as it include lyrics from Bambaataa. Everyone should own the Leftfield albums!
Leftfield's much anticipated comeback album impressed and disapponted in equal measures. On one hand, the album had some utterly stunning tracks (remember the Guiness ad with the horses in the sea) like Africa Shox and Dusted, but on the other hand, other album tracks failed to live up to the high standard created by the big hitters. However, Rhythm And Stealth is well worth owning, in my opinion, because despite the inconsistent quality, the best tunes more than justify the existence of the album.
A mixed album containing some of the best dance songs that you'll hear and some that only get played to the background of BBC documentaries. The song from the guiness ad is in it and when turned up load in the car it sound pretty good. But then as that song finishes you are bombarded with a possible less good song. The album lacks fluidity and presence but it makes up for it with 2 or 3 classics thrown in between the rubbish. I do like this album but only in fits and starts. Not as good as Leftism but then what is?
Before reviewing this album, anyone will automatically look towards the first album, Leftism, before listening. This has mixed blessings. First, Leftism is a classic. It's slow building poularity, to current multi-platinum status, was due to a mix of basslines, songs and a real progression across the album from chilled to big, bouncy stormers. So Rythm and Stealth was always going to be compared. Should it be Leftism part 2? With about 5 years between albums, this was never likely. Rythm... is a quite dark, dub heavy, big beating bruiser. It has songs, yes, but other than Swords, it's mainly the sheer weight and "size" of the tunes which impacts. But taking this as an album of multiple Phat Planets is wrong too. Rythm... varies from MCing on Africa Shox, to gorgeous female vocals on the aforementioned Swords. So possibly another classic? We'll see, but some hell of an album.
This CD was slated by some people for not being as good as Leftism but that is a bit unfair as this is not bad at all. It is hard to describe the style, most of the tracks have a hard techno beat and baseline but are much slower than real techno. You will know the start of 'Phat Planet' from that guinness advert with the waves and the horses and the single 'Afrika Shox' is an interesting track (feat. Afrika Bambaataa). But for me the bast tracks are 'El Cid' and 'Swords', these are both more laid back grooves and they really grow on you. Some of the other tracks are less successful but overall well worth a listen, just don't be expecting another Leftism or you will be dissapointed.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Phat Planet
3 Chant Of A Poorman
4 Double Flash
5 El Cid
6 Afrika Shox
7 Dub Gussett
9 6/8 War
10 Reno's Praye