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Darker And Thicker

Rhythm And Stealth
(Higher Ground/Columbia)

Leftfield has always been a group that's hit-or-miss with me. Although I liked their Leftism album of a couple years back, there were several tracks on the release that simply left me feeling flat. Likewise, with their two contributions to the Shallow Grave soundtrack, the first, self-titled track completely rocked my world while the second one (although very well put together) simply didn't do a whole lot for me.

Rhythym And Stealth is the album where (in my eyes at least) the group has put things together even more solid, and even though some tracks don't hit me as hard as others (which happens with most releases), it's definitely their best release to date. Like usual, several tracks on the disc completely stomp, but the group also shows a more well-rounded side as well, dabbling in dub, ambient, and electro alongside straight-up techno.

Things start off with a collaboration with Roots Manuva called "Dusted." Although a silly beginning may lead you to believe otherwise, the track kicks a thick beat and the rap by Manuva flows as smooth as can be. The next track "Phat Planet" kicks up the distortion levels a bit and lays waste with a much faster beat and some grinding sounds that could definitely fuel a dancefloor. Of course, the group changes up things yet again on the very next track. "Chant Of A Poor Man" features Cheshire Cat on vocals and sonically moves into a dub/reggae soup with plenty of blips to spare.

Probably the best track on the album comes out firing next on "Double Flash." After a slower build, and a beat that lingers in the background for just the right amount of time, the track pops into motion and powers steadily for its entirety with a completely driving rhythm and a simple progression. After the visceral thrills of the last track, the group slows things down again with the very minimal, ambient sounds of "El Cid" and the dark electro of "Afrika Shox" (which features Afrika Bambaataa and Nick Rapaccioli).

As mentioned above, though, the group goes through tons of different styles, and they don't stop there. "Dub Gussett" is a completely tricked-out (and amped-up) version of any dub I've ever heard, while female vocals of "Nicole Willis" flavor the ambient bleepfest of "Swords." The album closes out with the insane stutter-stepping beats of "6/8 War" and another mellower vocal number called "Rino's Prayer."

Basically, the album is a great excursion into lots of different styles, without overburdening itself by feeling too forced in them. That said, there is still a rather cohesive feel to the whole thing that doesn't make it too much of a chore to listen to. If you've heard other work by the group and liked it, you're probably not going to go wrong here (unless you really don't like their vocal collaborations). Even those work well, though, as they bring another layer to the already moody pieces that they're a part of. Another pretty solid effort from a good group.

Rating: 7