Collection / Anthology 1992-2012
Twenty years in the DJ business and the Underworld boys have a towering stack of material, and after twenty years of doing anything it never hurts to look back and contemplate what you did and why you did it. Underworld is Karl Hyde and Rick Smith; they’ve been leaders of the house/trance/rave world since at least the ’80s. This year they’ve released two projects totaling a staggering four CDs worth of material. First we have the single-disc Collection with 16 tracks. These are short, urgent cuts, and I like to think of them as modern electronic pop tracks, just the sort of thing the visionaries of post-war America thought our children would listen to on their record players today. They may have correctly envisioned our taste in sound, but they completely missed they whole iPod / mp3 thing. Highly recommended here: “Bebop Hurry” with Brian Eno (that guy is everywhere!), the plaintive “Crocodile (edit),” and another take on their classic “Born Slippy (Nuxx).” This remix opens with bass beats behind the space age lyrics, the bass shifts up then down, and the resample becomes even so much more intense. Lastly I’d recommend the 2011 edit of “Rez.” There are no vocals, but it’s still a driving pile of rhythm and amped-out drum machines.
Anthology 1992-2012 is nearly overwhelming with its four hours of material. The opening song is a harmonica and bass “Big Mouth,” and there’s enough stuff here to take you to the West Coast on a nonstop flight, if they still had those. It’s hard to pick favorites, but “MMM Skyscraper I Love You” rocks, “Big Meat Show” is a provocative title with a tense tight rhythm that turns adult films into electro pop, “Jumbo” riffs of a street person selling clothes, and “Jal to Tokyo” chops and slices cryptic lyrics.
No off-brand sushi here, this is an apocalyptic collection of both things you may have heard and stuff that has never seen the light of day. I suspect these guys could do another 20 years and still come up with exciting material for the rave revivals we’re sure to see in the 2040s.