Album review: Alternative Light Source – Leftfield

Leftfield are riding the waves like glorious, reigning champions returning from a too-early retirement.

Leftfield's Alternative Light Source. Courtesy Infectious
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Alternative Light Source


(Infectious Records)

Four stars

Much has changed in the world of dance music since Leftfield's last album, 1999's Rhythm and Stealth. Lots has changed in Leftfield land, too – the duo disbanded in 2002, only for one-half, Neil Barnes, to revive the name in 2010 for what looked like a cynical touring cash-in on former glories.

You may understandably be wary, therefore, of Alternative Light Source, the first album in 16 years – but such scepticism can be quickly dismissed with even a cursory listen to this dense, intelligent set of kinetically contrasting moods, hooks and ideas. Displaying a masterful use of texture and dynamics, there are moments as dark, groovy and compelling as any of the duo's work from their heyday. In the 1990s, Leftfield set the now-­standard template for guest vocalists. Here, upbeat opener Bad Radio features a characteristically caustic vocal from TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, while the glitchy Head and Shoulders showcases geezer raps from Sleaford Mods.

There's chart appeal with two vocals from Poliça's Channy Leaneagh. Most exciting is Universal Everything, an epic, pounding exorcism of techy house beats, while Shaker Obsession is pure cathartic, underground filth. Of course, instead of writing the rule book, Leftfield are now riding the waves – but doing so like glorious reigning champions returning from a too-early retirement.