Underworld – 1992-2002 (2003)

It’s rare for a compilation to be so good in overall quality. Underworld consisted of three English men who had various musical experience prior to working together. Karl Hyde, Rick Smith, and DJ Darren Emerson worked together during the 1990s, with the latter leaving early on in the 2000s to pursue his own musical direction. The other two core members remain today. Despite all that, this album is totally underrated and well worth listening to, as it sums up that period of time of their music making.

It’s a double album and a limited edition run. You won’t find it on Spotify or in stores, so order this online if you wish to hear it. It’s totally worth it. It’s the best of techno based electronic music.

We start off with Bigmouth, which is a harmonica driven piece with techno beats and beautiful textures. It builds up and breaks down nicely. No lyrics on this one but it sounds awesome. It goes on for about 9 minutes in total, so be patient with this awesome track.

Following up is the original Dirty mix. This is where the album really kicks into action. A repeated electronic riff goes through the piece, and it sounds beautiful to listen to. It goes well over 10 minutes, but every single second is captivating. It finishes off with a direct sound sample from the original Star Wars movies.

Mmm…Skyscraper I Love You is a visionary piece that is ultra psychedelic and features some awesome lyrics about seeing God and Jesus, Elvis, fresh meat and a little whipped cream. Mint. After the main song, it breaks down into a nice chill piece with the most dreamy electric guitar and sounds you can think of. It’s a long journey but a visually musical piece too. Well done.

Rez follows with a continuous electronic riff with the breakdown for a Cowgirl like connection for DJ intermixing, as both pieces were recorded at around the same time. Helicopter like drums and a danceable beat keep this one going for the longevity of the piece. It’s one of Underworld’s best.

The next piece, Spikee is a great punky song with delayed vocals from Karl Hyde. It’s a dance-driven piece which doesn’t stop until the end. It has some warped electric guitar at the end which finishes the piece well. Less traditional than you’d expect, but good all the same.

The following piece is Dirty Epic, a remix of the original Dirty. It’s a poppier version of the song and fits well into the album nicely. It’s not a traditional Underworld piece, but with clarinet, it spices things up.

Dark and Long (Dark Train) is a remix of the original Underworld song Dark and Long. It’s an awesome sort of thing you would listen to prior to going out to a nightclub. With some wonderful synth sounds and the more traditional Roland techno style sounds, this is a wonderful listen to hear from the end of side one.

Cowgirl begins side two and is a take on the country scene but is anything but country. The weirdest lyrics are prevalent before bursting into a totally wicked dance song. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.

The group’s hit Born Slippy (Nuxx) is the group’s most popular and mainstream track. It talks about falling in love with a girl, before “shouting lager, lager, lager” and other strange lyrics as well. It segues into the partial said Nuxx piece, although is cut down for this recording. Real fans of Underworld ought to check out the extended version on YouTube for a good dose of the original.

Following up is Pearls Girl, which starts off with underwater sort of sounds before emerging into some cut up sound effects including a sped up Amen Break in the style of Drum and Bass. It’s got some unusual lyrics here too, including mentioning water everywhere and Einstein. It’s a satisfying listen.

Jumbo follows and is a little weaker than previous tracks but is still a good listen. It does seem a little repetitive but has some Acid like sounds throughout it.

Push Upstairs is a more House Music-driven piece with a repeated piano riff and references to sex upstairs. It’s a little more unusual than the other pieces before but shorter than you’d expect.

The Techno piece Moaner goes on a little bit too long but is still concise. Karl Hyde sounds aggressive here, as he talks possibly about a cheating relationship. It’s not as an easy listen as you’d think.

The pastiche Shudder/King Of Snake starts off with wonky guitar parts and has some great samples throughout, sounding very similar to Donna Summer’s I Feel Love. It’s another great piece to dance along to.

8 Ball was specifically made for the film The Beach featuring Leonardo Dicaprio in it. It wasn’t released as a song until this record. Which makes it more essential than you’d think. It has layered guitar parts and a melody that is irresistible. Magic.

Two Months Off finishes the compilation nicely, with some repeated lyrics. “You bring light in” may refer to an LSD trip, but the song is wonderful. It ends the album with both your brain and body energized from the listening experience.

This album sure is a winner. It’s pure sonic bliss. If you feel that this is your cup of tea, seek out a copy of the album on Amazon before it’s gone. Essential for EDM party heads who crave a more intellectual listening experience.

9/10

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