Given their status within the canon of UK dance music, Leftfield have both a surprisingly small back catalogue (just four studio albums) and no ‘Born Slippy’-style signature track that’s bled deep into the cultural consciousness. Nonetheless, 1990s dance music heads will attest to the duo’s undeniable significance; tracks like 1993’s ‘Open Up’ and 1999’s ‘Phat Planet’ epitomised the cutting-edge qualities of dance music during the ’90s and saw the London duo effectively invent the progressive house subgenre.
The inadvertent problem faced by ‘legacy’ producers such as Leftfield is that electronic music ages very quickly. It’s difficult to continually remain fresh and exciting as new trends and technologies fly by at an increasingly rapid pace. Leftfield’s fourth full-length album This Is What We Do falls foul of this problem. From the distorted stomp of ‘Let’s Have It’ to the cut-up big beat vocals of ‘Making A Difference’, these 11 tracks forego aesthetic innovation in favour of a Frankenstein’s monster of well-worn ideas cribbed from the history of Leftfield and their peers.
If you find this innovation-based criticism an unfair charge to hold up against Leftfield, there are some more objective pleasures to be found within This Is What We Do. ‘Rapture 16’ is a strange, spacious scene-setter, while ‘Full Way Round’ is a techno banger driven by the unmistakable vocals of Fontaines D.C.’s Grian Chatten. Given Leftfield’s noted history of using guest vocalists, a few more appearances would have provided some welcome injections of charisma and individuality. Overall, the album just feels that bit too familiar and uninspired (particularly the weird Kraftwerk pastiches ‘City of Synths’ and ‘Machines Like Me’) to leave much of a lasting impression.
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