Album Review: Leftfield – Alternative Light Source

In the sixteen years since the release of their last album ‘Rhythm and Stealth’ in 1999, the departure of co- founder Paul Daley and a 2005 ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation seemed to seal Leftfield’s fate as a relic of the often mythologised 90’s rave scene; a powerful weapon with which the previous generation of sweaty, jaw-swinging revellers could use to insist how much better it used to be. However following a run of successful live performances in 2010 orchestrated by remaining member Neil Barnes, the name endured and with the assistance of collaborator Adam Wren, has been resurrected with fresh material to make the room shake.

To put the band in their rightful context, in an article leading up to the release of ‘Alternative Light Source’, NME claimed that “electronic music as we know it today exists in Leftfield’s image”, crediting them as one of the first to introduce a dramatic instrumental drop and the pioneers of including big name vocalists, most famously John Lydon on 1993 single ‘Open Up’. Although admittedly their second album Rhythm and Stealth felt lacking compared to their debut Leftism, Leftfield’s dub-infused brand of rapturous banger helped pave the way for the infectious bass-lines of today.

“Leftfield’s dub-infused brand of banger helped pave the way for the infectious bass-lines of today”

In terms of innovation, not much has changed. Barnes hasn’t deviated from the original rich, rib-cage rattling textures and the obligatory vocals feature, with the likes of Tunde Adebimpe on opener ‘Bad Radio’, Channy Leaneagh of Poliça on ‘Bilocation’ and the rising synths of ‘Little Fish’ and Sleaford Mods shouting down the fairly minimal beat of ‘Head and Shoulders’. This is all very good. The atmospheric build and trance-like riff of ‘Storm’s End’ make the hairs on the back of the neck stand on end and the layered uplifting title track clatters into the following ‘Shaker Obsession’, with a rolling beat reminiscent of the notorious ‘Phat Planet’. However the stand out track has to be the thunderous ‘Universal Everything’, a seven minute builder which rises into two cacophonous drops, both more satisfying than the last.

The path of the comeback album is often a perilous one, on which one must still retain the seminal elements listeners first fell in love with, yet find a way to prove themselves still relevant in today’s hyper-critical internet society, where producers can dominate the scene one year and be forgotten the next. However after such a long time out of the game, no one wants a Leftfield left unrecognisable by an attempt to somehow re-locate themselves in the world. Instead what we have here is the long over-due awakening of an electronic giant leaving a heavy footprint on the dancefloors of today.

Thomas Ingram

Catch Leftfield in action at Warehouse Project on the 12th of December headlining alongside the likes of Paranoid London, Pearson Sound and George Fitzgerald.

Tom is currently listening to ‘Ich Bin Meine Maschine’ by Atom™

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Co-Editor of the Music Section at University of Nottingham's IMPACT Magazine.

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