Underworld – Beaucoup Fish

Beaucoup Fish is not the ultimate Underworld album that fans may dream of. Instead, it is a challenging, sometimes messy album that seems richer with each listening. The uncompromising approach Underworld takes on Beaucoup Fish keeps the music a little edgy, and makes it a treat for electronica fans.

The music is a combination of hard beats and ambient sounds. Karl Hyde’s vocal contributions are oblique as ever:

“bubble girl you feel like a movie
bubble blow a bit faster
bubble fish take fast now
bubble fast slow down
the slope
blue blue
blue blue”

The album is heavy on lyrics and vocals, unlike much electronica. The vocals, though, seem to be handled just as other sounds to be used for effect. The vocals are often vocoded or treated with effects, distancing them a little and making them blend into the electronic sound. The words don’t appear to have any literal meaning, but they seem to combine with the music to let listeners create their own mental imagery. You won’t find real “songs”, but after a few listens, you may, nevertheless, find yourself singing along.

Cups starts out as an ambient track and slowly builds, over nearly 12 minutes, to be a fairly heavy trance number. The first section uses vocoded voice to great effect. The middle section uses samples and beats to create a trance effect, like some of Chemical Brother’s tracks. By the end, the track veers into big-beat territory.

A stunning album of smart, dance-pop craft, Beaucoup Fish blends stomping beats and meandering, binary dream worlds into a cohesive and heavenly revelation. It’s another work filled with Karl Hyde’s singsong talk-vocals (“Push Downstairs”) floating over DJ Darren Emerson’s sinewy, house-style rave-ups (“King of Snake”), a sound that has distinguished them since 1993’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman. On Beaucoup Fish, however, that sound slips around tracks that do more than patiently await the next thick coat of rhythm, building simple songs into a digitized, epic whole. There are eruptions of ecstatic melody on songs such as “Jumbo,” while jerky dance tracks such as “Bruce Lee” open whole new avenues for bursting layers of rhythmic ambience. Underworld are doomed to be haunted forever by “Born Slippy” (popularized via the Trainspotting soundtrack), the world’s first international rave anthem, yet Beaucoup Fish goes well beyond such timely phenomena, and works instead to free electronic music from its computer-age constraints. –Matthew Cooke

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