Leftfield Rhythm and Stealth

Leftfield duo Neil Barnes and Paul Daley have a great deal to live up to with this, their sophomore album. 1995's Leftism is now regarded as a classic and highly influential dance album, its gleeful risk-taking and lovingly honed production certainly setting a standard for electronic music producers to aim for. Three years in the making, Rhythm and Stealth sees the self-proclaimed “sound fashionists” outdoing themselves. The sound is thick as fuck; carefully constructed chaos reigns supreme. Tracks such as "Double Flash" and "6/8 War" are pounding, relentless odes to the days of acid house and early techno, looking back with ears geared to the future. Current club favourite "Phat Planet" also builds upon driving beats, elatedly wandering through the valley of electro-fashioned breakbeat in a manner that simultaneously suggests punk rock, Kraftwerk and Afrika Bambaataa. Mr. electro-funk punker himself in fact lends his unmistakable vocals to "Afrika Shox," sounding more dynamic and focussed than he has in years while singing and chanting over Leftfield's massive sound. Barnes and Daley truly shine when collaborating with vocalists, obviously pursuing each participant for their own unique qualities and then constructing optimal musical frameworks. A relaxed Chesire Cat toasts over the electronic sub-bass dub of "Chant of a Poor Man" while the distinctive rhymes of Ninja Tune MC Roots Manuva positively sear in album opener "Dusted," a gripping slice of futuristic hip hop. The moody, passionate textures of "Swords" blissfully showcases the soulful vocals of former Curtis Mayfield collaborator Nicole Willis, creating a mood that resonates deeply. Rhythm and Stealth is an album to behold, perhaps even more cohesive and compelling than Leftism. An absolute delight. (Higher Ground)