By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Scott Woods says, "I hear a certain dirtiness in techno that I don't hear in Kraftwerk. Kraftwerk's a well-oiled synth next to the Chemical Brothers' and Leftfield's clangy old garbage cans." As if in response, Leftfield on their new album put a deliberately Kraftwerkian synth melody onto "Afrika Shox," along with space rays and robot voices. They also put a deliberately Bambaataaian vocal, provided by Afrika Bambaataa himself.
And "Afrika Shox" is great. I actually far prefer it to "Planet Rock," to which it self-consciously refers back. "Afrika Shox" doubles the emotion and drive. It's less interesting in its beats than the Baker-Robie stuff of old, less a playful runaround, but the hard-dance-with-a-backbeat rhythm here surely propels this one. There's beauty, fun, excitement, large-barreled harrumphingwhatever I mean by that. Bambaataa's way of conjuring/calling forth to the heavens? "The year 2000 is on the way, some say-The year 2000 has been here since yesterday." Whatever he means by that. Has been here in our imagination?
The rest of the Leftfield album, Rhythm and Stealth, is quite excellent, though I've promised to be at a loss for words about it. Most of what I'd say is along the lines of, "some pulses, then an electronic drum beat comes in; the fact that it's a drum, rather than a pulse, kicks the music forward." But perhaps I need to say it with emphasis: "You see, the fact that it's a drum rather than a pulse kicks the music forward!" Or "radio waves follow the massive beat; now the massive beats withdraw in deference to the radio waves." "Clangy old garbage can" is only one of Leftfield's sounds, of course, and it's a nice resonating dirt, a dignified clang. Other sounds: a deep noncardboardy bass but with a "box-like" aftertaste. (I'm not at a loss for words, just for the right words.) The beauty of a wooden bar hitting another wooden bar in rhythm, to a slight echo. And so forth. Rhythm, clang, beauty.