Hard Hands / Columbia Records
This debut album from British electronica shape-shifters makes use of the musical flavour found in other walks, cementing their name in the fond spots of several crowds at once. Consisting of tracks made previously by the duo between 92 and 95, the Leftfield project reworks well-crafted sounds to form an album with a peculiar yet warming direction.
The opener simmers into action with an eerie and catchy riff of sound and beat. Swells of motion formulate in subtle choppy waves as the vocal line begins. A reggae feel in the voice brings a realisation of relaxation before a thumping bass begins the album proper. A smashing pulse drives the album forward to the familiar vocal line of Earl Sixteen, the first of many guests. Release The Pressure makes a real statement of intent, the music sits calmly, churning away to its simple and alluring sensation. Reggae rhythms penetrate the bass heavy loopathon which crumble into nicely moving sections of inspired dance floor directions.
Afro-left takes a rap sound and adds it to a funky bass riff which has mahogany and skin feels. Tribal reverberations meld with frantic and energetic excitement as the pulse progresses with ferocity and the vocalist manages to spit words like a human machine-gun. Blippy sonics crest into the mix from on high to greet the already driving force of the track. Pushed to the top of intensity, this heavy and throbbing mix grabs hold of more of our brain with each bar. Djum Djum takes the African sound with rhythmic poetical lines and slides them in like jig-saw pieces over the well ordered and heavy-stepping track.
A slower feel peels away from the airwaves as Melt swirls into existence. A melodic and hedonistic reality self-creates as an orchestrated selection of tunes dance together like butterflies in the sun. A trumpet or two playfully jam together as synthesised drips of sound spurn delicate and gentle loops and phrases. The progression moves gracefully, signalling a laid back approach to the composition. A deep and meaningful bass continues to pound through the sweeping prettiness of ambient journeying. Some fruity basslines curl over the end of the track in a way that suggests they've been waiting. Song of Life makes the scene with a melodic vocal line singing a simple tune.
Some chunky bass and drum fall into line as the vocal begins a loop, melody is given in subtle doses as the lower notes two-step around their central reservations. Interesting additions of effect fill the spaces, and soon a sweet sounding synthesiser enters to fill the layers with warmth. A slow and mood driven pace signals the album has more to show us than a simple head pounding bang fest. Strange sonics are sprinkled over the abstracting compositions in dreamlike salt and pepper grindings. Soon, the pace is given a gear change. A thumping bass drum starts its hypnotic intensity once more, as pulsing rhythms of melody swing over to adorn the sound with depth.
Toni Halliday from Curve makes an entrance as guest vocalist in the track Original. A slinky number with a heartbeat rhythm addresses some relaxation inspired tones and with an injection of drama. Spoken word lyrics greet the verse lines as a progressing melody forces the tones up by notches. The song turns to melody and the thoughtful symbols of sound bring a cloud of introspection into the room. Synthetic electronic tones bounce along in playful patterns as the song begins to progress from its initial phases. The track feels like a homage to people who do things in their own way, and how they affect those they encounter.
A thumping bass drum cracks open the silence before it leaves a space for a rhythmic melody to crisp the edges. The pounding returns and the mix of pulses from varying directions brings on a new dimension of moveability. Black Flute is a dancing number, full of stops and surprising breaks. The simplicity of the mix gives it a flavour that can be used to make all kinds of things work. Used as a filling, this track could slot in anywhere, or as a stand alone number it drives home a feeling of standing urgency. With a snap of the fingers, a new track is brought into the light. Space Shanty unwraps a playful jive that lays dripping with ethnic inspired charm. A crafty worming bass note snakes around the drum as a distorted vocality shimmers on the water. The bass heavy sub-track smashes back onto the scene to the wavering harmonies of a digital light-beam, a quick and marching pace throws the album into high gear again.
The by now traditional feeling of Leftfield swells with digital bass notes and is nailed down to the framework by the thud of thickly spread drums. Repeating phrasologies and musical memes bring directions to the centrefold, not just from the left field but from right, top, ground level, and beyond. Uses of the human voice as a percussion instrument give organic feels to an otherwise computerised production. Wholesome beats with throws from tribal origins give another dimension to this humanistic element which is knitted gently through the modern and technical sounding album.
More dub sounds are laid on the table with Inspection Check One. Jamaican accented speech runs as an atmospheric undertone while the music gradually cranks up to a chillaxed happy point. A rolling rhythm sits on a looped back drop of bassy notes and clanging metalwork cymbals. Lyrics roll in from the adjacent hills as a rumbling heaviness scores the interlude. Loops bring everything back to life as the verse crunches into chorus, mashing beats together in a frenzy of flowing progression. Flavours of the tribe and back room exclusivity come together in meditative
pulses of sound.
Some drum and bass inspired grinding springs forth as Storm 3000 breaks the surface. The catchy and upbeat tempo is joined by a rhythmic melody which with a strange key begins to play around the bass in interested yet slightly coy dances. A jungle theme can be heard, melodically pumping the drums in interesting and hearty percussive compositions. Additions of beat give thrust to the mix, familiar sounds are joined by fresh ones which all point to neatly ordered peaks of sound. The track slowly runs itself into the ground, and some homely sounds of thunder end the journey.
Open Up phases into the soundsphere, making use of John Lyndon aka Johny Rotten on vocals. Not something you'd expect on an electro album, the previous punk takes on a surprising edge to add a full on gutsy layer to this upbeat high energy track. Some great fills take on the dinner as frantic melodies play and jut into the experience. Some full on techno hides behind a close and heady throw together of some wacky yet oddly well suited elements. A breakdown of flow grabs another style and puts it in the middle. Bringing on the next and final track, 21st Century Poem slows the pace to an enjoyable amble.
Billed as progressive house, the Leftfield sound extends way beyond its suggested boundaries. With capsules of inspiration taken from cabinets across the spectrum of modern popular music, the amalgamation of energies creates a swift and numerously hooked selection of racing homages to pure groove.
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