Sixteen years after Rhythm and Stealth both cemented Leftfield as one of the UK’s greatest electronic duos and ultimately led to their demise, Neil Barnes attempts to prove that they’re just as remarkable a prospect as a one-man band with third album, Alternative Light Source.
Indeed, co-founder Paul Daley, who at the turn of the century declared that he would never step foot on stage as part of Leftfield ever again, has stuck true to his word, opting out of the group’s 2010 live comeback, and now this belated return to the studio.
Not that Barnes is entirely alone on Alternative Light Source. Free of the autotune treatment that has defined Poliça’s output, frontwoman Channy Leaneagh lends her haunting tones to the shadowy synth-pop of “Bilocation” and the deadpan techno of “Little Fish.” TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe’s deep croon proves to be the perfect foil for the ominous industrial of opener “Bad Radio,” while emerging soulman Ofei showcases his yearning vocals on the downtempo closer “Levitate For You.”
But fresh from collaborating with another titan of 90s dance music, The Prodigy, it’s Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson who makes the biggest impression as he barks about “chicken in a basket” and “dandruff warriors” in a style similar to previous Leftfield guest vocalist John Lydon on the utterly menacing “Head and Shoulders.”
Sadly, Alternative Light Source isn’t quite as thrilling when it ditches the vocals, with the relentlessly pulsing “Universal Everything” running out of ideas long before its seven-minute run time draws to a close, and the nightmarish soundscape of “Storms End” resembling a Crystal Castles knock-off.
Alternative Light Source, therefore, isn’t the game changer that its predecessor or 1995 debut Leftism was, but it’s still a solid return which more than justifies Leftfield’s unlikely resurrection.