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Leftfield: "Rhythm & Stealth"
(***)

Covert art

Assorted electronica - some good, some not so

Right from the first bars, Leftfield's "Rhythm & Stealth" is a joy to listen to. While I greatly dislike rap music in general, the vocal opening track "Dusted" won me over with its fresh and phat sound. "Phat Planet" kicks it up a notch with even more lush beat acrobatics, a faster tempo and - thankfully - no lyrics to get in the way. The track completely lacks melody, which may put off fans of the more "Melt"ish side of Leftfield.

The third track returns to the reggae/ska-infected sound from "Leftism" - a delightfully produced track, but the vocals are a personal turnoff. If you take away the rappish vocals the track is reduced to nothing but a looping phrase. I would have preferred a more transparent reggae influence, but that's just me. And again following the lazy vocal track we get a pumping percussion number that picks up the pace with "Double Flash". Being utterly atonal, it's a track best danced to, not just listened to. (Although surely pleasure can be derived from nodding to it as well, if dancing is not an option).

After the bassdrum lets up and fades out, we're thrown into a completely different mood with "El cid", an ambient and dreamy track with detached drumming and soothing melodies.

"Africa Shox" is a track that sounds exactly like you'd expect from the title. It succeeds in upholding the extremely cool and street-smart impression the album is trying to create, although a little credibility is lost in the now clishé use of the "robotic" vocals. Another well produced track with the only major flaw being the vocals, which simply disinterest me. "Dub Gussett" continues the successful line of interesting, phat and varying electronica tracks on the album with yet another rhythm.

"Swords" opens up with a beautiful melody and clear soul influences with the harmonic female vocals. It doesn't build up to anything though - which is a shame, I think it would have made a killer party track. Still, a great listen as it is. "6/8 War", on the other hand, while strong and in keeping with the theme of the album, feels out of place. It does little else but stomp on for four odd minutes - not all that much unlike "Double Flash", but it lacks the spark hat "Double Flash" had. The album fades out with the slightly uninteresting ambient soundscapes of "Rino's Prayer".

As a big beat album, "Rhythm and Stealth" delivers. Superior to "Leftism" in that it sounds more modern. This doesn't mean you should give "Leftism" a miss - on the contrary. You should get "Leftism" for "Melt" alone, especially if you can get it used. "Leftism" is generally more melodic and pop-crossover.

To get (literally!) the most bang for your buck, you might want to try and get the two-CD edition of the album that has a few remixes and two videos on the second disc. Don't bust your balls trying to acquire it though, as it's disappointingly bland on the whole and a mixed bag at best. The Dave Clarke remix of "Phat Planet" adds little beyound modulation to the original and doesn't quite impress you the way the original does. The I-Cube simple mix of "El Cid" is groovy and mellow, but fails to stand out of the crowd. The Nick Rapaccioli mix of "Rino's Prayer" is pure dub and also unappealing unless you're an absolute dub nut. The Mighty Quark remix of "Chant of A Poor Man" is the first track on the remix disc that surprises positively with the rhythm that creeps up on you after a long stretch of ambience. Yet it's a somewhat unimpressive track still. Timo Maas's remix of "Dub Gussett" is sharp, oldschoolish club, and a nice listen at that. The second "El Cid" remix is neater than the first and along with the "Dub Gussett" remix gives the second disc some redeeming value. The "Double Flash" remix retains the energy of the original nicely, but just isn't very interesting.

Overall the remix album seems to contain just a bunch of tracks you may find yourself skipping in the long run, and eventually perhaps returning to one or two of them for a change of pace.

TOP TRACKS: Swords, Phat Planet

Tracklist

  1. Dusted
  2. Phat Planet [Sample]
  3. Chant Of A Poor Man
  4. Double Flash
  5. El Cid
  6. Afrika Shox
  7. Dub Gussett
  8. Swords [Sample]
  9. 6/8 War
  10. Rino's Prayer
Image of CD

Tracklist

  1. Phat Planet (Dave Clarke Remix)
  2. El Cid (I-Cube Simple Mix)
  3. Rino's Prayer (Nick Rapaccioli Remix)
  4. Chant Of A Poor Man (Mighty Quark Remix)
  5. Dub Gussett (Maas Remix)
  6. El Cid (I-Cube Table Tennis Remix) [Sample]
  7. Double Flash (Headstarter Remix)
Image of CD

Sony Music 2000

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Review by Saboteur


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