After the success of their album dubnobasswithmyheadman, Underworld needed to progress on as a musical group and had to deliver. This album was yet another success for the three piece group and cemented their place in the history books of Electronic based music with a large international fanbase and critical appraise. This should be an interesting listen from start to finish, so let’s do that. Quick note: the original album does not include the hit Born Slippy (Nuxx), which in retrospect, should have been included. Still, let’s see how this goes.
Firstly we have Juanita: Kiteless: To Dream Of Love which begins with some excellent electronic noises and some Breakbeats, before a bouncing Techno groove gets underway. This is a solid listen from the start, and sounds fresh and consistently inspired. Some additional Techno style textures are thrown into the mix, before Karl Hyde gets singing through a vocoder patch of sorts. The lyrics here are surreal. Hi-hats then enter, adding to the momentous effort here. This sounds really fantastic, hard to believe that this record was done back in 1996, it sounds like it could have been done today. Some pounding 4/4 beats then enter, and we get going. Although this piece is very long at 16 minutes long, it sounds very dreamlike and amazing. Perhaps taking a leaf out of classical composer Phillip Glass’s books, this is a layered and excellently structured listen. After a few minutes, some killer electronic and quickly paced sounds enter. A really great guitar part joins in for the party, being only a three chord part as well. This is surreal, danceable and enjoyable to hear, a real ear candy treat from Underworld. It builds up with a wall-of-sound like approach and is a very positive and uplifting sounding piece. After five minutes, it goes into a funky and awesome electronic sound which is super dope, before the beats recommence. A really top and awesome listening experience, this is a fine musical journey which is unforgettable. This is a more minimal piece that sounds good and different. Some of the sounds from earlier on in this piece resume, propelling this monstrous beauty of a track along. Never dull or boring throughout this super extended piece, it is the 1990s answer to the hippy dream. After a while, some lone beats pound on in the middle of this track, adding to the suspense and beauty of it all. A really great distorted patch then comes along, which is awesome to hear, likely coming from a Roland TB-303. Some more distorted sounds build up, pointing to a real competitor against the Rock music greats of the day. It goes into a more subdued section, showcasing the group’s ability to make dynamic music. This is Electronic music for those who dig intelligent sounds and Progressive structure. Some super fast semi-piano sounds then arrive, which may remind one of Classical and Jazz music structures. That sound is brought to the fore, as we go through the second half of the track. It is beautiful, moving and suspenseful. Karl Hyde then sings, this time without a vocoder distorting his voice, he sounds great here. A fresh and inspired piece, this is a totally underrated track in Underworld’s back catalogue. The beats re-enter and this last section of this amazing track is here. The traditional beats and modern textures certainly make this a brilliant effort. Towards the end, one gets the sense that Underworld have created another classic album, and an important release in the history of music. The ending of this track is interesting, with some Gremlin like sped up speech talking about colours, which is unusual. Brilliant, and a top listen from start to finish, a must hear.
Up next is Banstyle / Sappys Curry begins with some chilled sounds and Drum and Bass style beats in the background. An interesting listen, this sounds really great, and as though time was not being wasted by the trio here. It builds up with suspense and exciting textures, which are highly original. This is a good track for when you can relax and think about things. Karl Hyde then begins singing nicely, his voice sounding like the 1990s equivalent of New Order’s Bernard Sumner. A fresh and great listen to hear, this is amazing. This piece will take you to a sonic landscape that is indescribable for the most part, which must mean it is excellent, which it is. Some quirky noises then enter, continuing this marvelous sonic journey along here. There are some interesting IDM style textures here, which is a really great idea, as Underworld’s music is very much EDM for intelligent people. It gradually builds up into a great sonic patch, fading out the first part of the track, to what sounds like ambient synth strings. Some loose acoustic guitar parts are here, which are reassuring. This is a really top listening experience, and sounds tranquil in this section. Some subsonic bass and slower beats enter here, which are quite interesting. Sound a bit like the EDM duo Leftfield, this is really impressive. Some intricate and looped melodies enter which will blow your mind. Definitely a great listen. Karl Hyde begins singing again, a really great track here. The beats in particular here are really catchy and great listening. A cool tune, this is a great sonic exploration trip. Some extra melodies enter, to go along with the delayed sounding drum beats and ethereal textures. The sections take turns between textures and singing, which is fantastic. Some cyber melodies that sounds unusual enter, like an 8 bit Tarzan or something similar. This is wacky and interesting, but in a really good way. It may have been that these guys were doing psychedelics, the music is very much like that here. The acoustic guitar returns, with some interlocked melodies. Some cut up beats and melodies then enter here, and sounds really amazing. It gets interesting and suspenseful towards the end, a very great piece of sonic texture and innovative music. Another great Underworld effort, and an essential listen, once again.
Confusion The Waitress begins with some low frequency random kick drum sounds, before a decent melody kicks in. Some real 4/4 beats enter, and we are underway on our sonic journey, once again. A really good listening experience, this is minimal yet great to hear. Karl Hyde sings about a waitress and her philosophy to life, before some more interesting textures and sounds begin. This is different, a lot more minimal and more exciting than you’d expect from Underworld. A very unusual sounding piece, but very good. Some drum and bass beats in the background enter, and this sonic adventure is really weird, but good. A shorter and more minimal listen from the geniuses behind Underworld, this is a very precise and brilliant piece of listening, although this is a lesser track on the album. It’s really excellent listening and although being less lengthy piece on this album, is still really fine to hear. Some liquid sounds are here towards the end, before ending gradually. It goes back to the sounds at the beginning of the track, before stopping abruptly. A very good tune.
Rowla comes next, beginning with some awesome original melodic patches that sound very good. Some additional sounds enter in the background, before hi-hats come rushing in. This is a great melodic piece. 4/4 kick drum beats and some layered melodies then join on in for the fun. This is a really brilliantly structured track, and sounds original and amazing. A genuinely good piece of artistic and original work, the sounds become gradually more hypnotic and intense. This is a really fine listening experience, and just sounds cool. One of the most underrated Underworld pieces, and danceable too. This is an extraordinary listen, and just sounds very original and fresh. The main melody continues with textural alterations throughout, and a very Progressive EDM feel is on this one, with different layered sections and beats starting and finishing throughout. An excellent track to listen to, and sounds really amazing and unique, although it is surprisingly minimal. Great and excellent music, a really good listening experience and very psychedelic sounding.
Next is the classic piece Pearl’s Girl which begins with a basic melody and watery sounds. It is a fine introduction, and certainly different to anything else out there musically. A keyboard melody enters, with some cut up vocals and then this piece gets going with some circular drum and bass beats and some razor sharp melodies that sound unique. A very clever piece of music, and although not really danceable, this is a really top listen. Instrumental breaks flow in and out of the track, before launching into a surreal and atonal set of singing and lyricism from Karl Hyde. This is amazing, referring to many colours and Albert Einstein, and going crazy. Brilliant, not based for an IDM style piece that is made to change the ball game somewhat for Underworld. Epic and awesome to hear, and is a real fine piece of musical artistry. The lyrics come here as a unique stream-of-consciousness here, and propel this killer track along. The looped vocal part throughout may indeed, sound crazy, but in a very good way. In the second half, we have some dramatic sweeping and nicely edited cut up beats and a section devoted to it. Is this really a nine and a half minute long track? Doesn’t feel like it at all. The melodies at the start of the track return to finish this piece off. The string melody patch then becomes centre piece towards the end of this track, being the only part here. The cut up drum and bass beats eventually return just before the end to add some flavour to this piece. Very, very good. A fine effort from Underworld, and this ends with a slow fade out. Excellent.
Following is Air Towel which begins with some classic melodies and some lone hi-hats. Very psychedelic sounding, this is a great EDM piece from the start. Some 4/4 kick drum beats then enter, boosting this piece along nicely. Some extra rhythmic percussion then enters, and this piece is a minimal powerhouse. Extra interesting electronic sounds then join in, making this a different listen. Some looped lyrics then come along for the journey, which are really great. This piece is perhaps not as good as what came before it, despite the fact that this is just as listenable as the others, it seems a little too bare at times. That is merely being overly critical though, and Karl Hyde puts in an excellent vocal performance, sounding very New Order-ish, once again. Some extra melodies then come along in the second half that gradually layer up this piece to make it a little more dramatic. A good effort but in retrospect, could have been less minimal and not so long, this piece being seven and a half minutes long. Still, it is listenable, so no need to skip this one. A gentle and decent listen nonetheless. The sounds, beats and vocal sample are looped right to the end, a nice effort by Underworld.
Blueski has some interesting clean electric guitar parts and is really short, at only three minutes long. It is a different listen here, and points to Underworld’s past as a Rock band trying to make it in the music scene (yes, you read that correctly). Still, an oddity, but a very nice one, proving that these guys had a few tricks up their sleeve. This is an excellent oddity in the back catalogue of Underworld. Some extra bass melodies are added here, too. A nice listen, very good to hear, although somewhat different from what you’d expect. It fades out gently, a good piece to hear. Gentle melodies here.
Stagger begins with some loose hi-hats and is the last track here. Some delayed piano then enters, before Karl Hyde begins singing away with a load of delay here. This seems a bit more like an actual song here, and the lyrics here are really surreal and psychedelic, once again. A good tune, but an odd and quite dark sounding piece. Very sparse and straightforward, this is a decent piece. However, this is definitely not one of the better Underworld pieces, it doesn’t sound really much like a well thought out piece. Still, this is a bit harsh to say considering the album, it is certainly listenable. In the middle of the song, Karl Hyde’s singing gets melodramatic and personal, before launching into a very 1980s sounding piece of music. It comes across as a dark and weird love song, but all the same, is okay. Could have been bettered in retrospect though and remixed, but otherwise good. Some looped palm muted guitar parts are here towards the end, before bass heavy beats come into this track to finish it off. Decent, but once again, could have been better. The beats are huge, and sound punchy.
Is this a classic album? Yes it is. It is really excellent Underworld music, but seemingly burns out a little musically towards the end. Additionally, some people may be put off by the length of both the album and most of the tracks recorded here. Still, a very good effort and worth hearing if you love most EDM. Fans of Underworld will be delighted to hear that reissues of the album contain extra tracks, including Born Slippy (Nuxx). A good and interesting listen all the same.
If you liked the article and would like to support the author in his musical review quest, please donate to show your support. Thank you for your consideration. Chris Airey