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Electronic - Released January 1, 2014 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Electronic - Released March 18, 2016 | Smith Hyde Productions

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
In the six years since the release of their merely good effort Barking, electronica veterans Underworld were tied up with big things, like solo projects, Eno collaborations, film scores, and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where they were musical directors for the opening ceremony. Take all that into consideration, and this excellent 2016 LP seems more closely linked to its predecessor, and acts like a natural swing-back-into-action after getting the too-busy-/tries-too-hard/return-to-form album out of the way. Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future is also an album longtime fans will instantly embrace, but it's an evolution as well. Bookended with excellent surprises, it opens with a dark, half-tempo track that's got Gary Numan in its veins ("I Exhale") and closes with a masterful work that mashes Kraftwerk, classical music, and the blissful Underworld found on their 1999 album Beaucoup Fish ("Nylon Strung"). The title "Low Burn" captures the album's mood while the song's lyrics "Be beautiful, be free" capture the spirit. Vocalist Karl Hyde proves to be a master of the cut-up style of writing throughout, reaching a high point on the acid house throwback "If Rah," where his layered words and phrases make him the optimist's version of William S. Burroughs. Member Rick Smith co-produces the album with the help of the group High Contrast, and the results are a lean effort that flows as well as their early albums, with the new age-y interlude "Santiago Cuatro" best taken in this context, and coming off plain and puzzling otherwise. Near perfect and a step forward as well, Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future belongs on Underworld's top shelf. If it's considered to be "late-era," it must also be considered "miraculous." © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Electronic - Released November 13, 2015 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
Second Toughest in the Infants (1996) wasn't actually Underworld's sophomore album, but it was their second full-length (fourth overall) since progressive house DJ Darren Emerson joined the core lineup of Rick Smith and Karl Hyde in 1991, transforming them from a mediocre dance-rock duo into one of the most original, acclaimed, and successful electronic groups of the '90s. As with its predecessor, 1994's Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Second Toughest was a critical success as well as a commercial hit, reaching the Top 10 of the U.K. album charts and converting a significant number of American listeners right around the time that "electronica" was being hyped as the next big thing in the United States. In comparison to Dubnobass..., Second Toughest was less club-centric and more diverse in its approach, flirting with drum'n'bass rhythms on a few cuts, experimenting with slide guitar loops on the elegant "Blueski," and slowing to a crawl for its final song, the dreamy "Stagger." The trio proved to be masters of pacing and dynamics, crafting lengthy epics (the album's first two tracks collectively exceed half-an-hour) which excitedly build and release, flowing through vivid melodic themes and interlocking rhythmic patterns, and segueing from intricate breakbeats to calmer, more downtempo passages. The album's multi-part suites also harkened back to another era of "progressive" music, the prog rock of the '70s, and like that period's most popular groups, Underworld made brainy, ambitious, mystical music that was also accessible and listener-friendly. The album also remains remarkable for Hyde's surrealist, cryptic, free-associative lyrics, particularly on stand-out tracks like the choppy, Al Green-referencing single "Pearl's Girl." The album's most ecstatic moment, however, is the buzzing, gleeful "Rowla," which piles on dazzling, distorted synth riffs, hushes down for a bit, and then does it all over again. Second Toughest in the Infants endures as a landmark album, spotlighting Underworld at their creative peak, and remaining an important document of an era when experimental, cerebral electronic dance music received significant mainstream attention. © Paul Simpson /TiVo
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Electronic - Released January 1, 2014 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
From the beginning of the first track "Dark & Long," Underworld's focus on production is clear, with songwriting coming in a distant second. The best tracks ("MMM Skyscraper I Love You," "Cowgirl") mesh Hyde's sultry songwriting with Emerson's beat-driven production, an innovative blend of classic acid house, techno, and dub that sounds different from much that preceded it. In a decade awash with stale fusion, Underworld are truly a multi-genre group. © John Bush /TiVo
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Electronic - Released October 16, 2007 | ATO Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Like their heroes Kraftwerk, Underworld's Karl Hyde and Rick Smith appear to work in a completely sterile environment, unbothered by charts or sales projections or label concerns about their marketing abilities. They simply reemerge periodically with another full-length of precise but swinging techno, with vocals that somehow create a rather plaintive sense of detachment (Radiohead's similarity in this area should not be overlooked). More than 2002's A Hundred Days Off or 1998's Beaucoup Fish, Oblivion with Bells harks back to Underworld's 1993 rebirth with the epic Dubnobasswithmyheadman. (Even the cover design and accordion-style liner notes are similar.) The acid techno is firmly in place, with little or no regard for developments in the form after the '80s. Still, unlike other electronica mainstays who have occasionally revealed a little weariness -- either from trying to change or trying to stay the same -- Underworld never sound particularly tired on Oblivion with Bells. Granted, the music is less innovative than before, and also more quiet, which makes Hyde's vocals more critical than they've ever been. Unfortunately, however, they don't benefit from the scrutiny. "Ring Road" and "Holding the Moth" are particularly odd, utilizing Underworld's usual cut-and-paste phraseology, but with productions and performances that never come together like their classics "Dark & Long" or "Pearls Girl." © John Bush /TiVo
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Electronic - Released January 1, 2014 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
From the beginning of the first track "Dark & Long," Underworld's focus on production is clear, with songwriting coming in a distant second. The best tracks ("MMM Skyscraper I Love You," "Cowgirl") mesh Hyde's sultry songwriting with Emerson's beat-driven production, an innovative blend of classic acid house, techno, and dub that sounds different from much that preceded it. In a decade awash with stale fusion, Underworld are truly a multi-genre group. © John Bush /TiVo
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Electronic - Released November 1, 2019 | Caroline International (P&D)

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Electronic - Released January 1, 1995 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

The three-song release of Born Slippy deceptively contains almost 30 minutes of music. Unfortunately, outside the dancefloor, two of the songs are nearly too much to bear. Born Slippy's finest moment, or finest ten minutes, is in ".NUXX." Fans of the film Trainspotting will remember the song from one of the movie's most daring scenes, where Ewan McGregor's character makes a pivotal decision. The song is simply one of the best slices of electronica one will find. Musically austere in its emotional textures, the song becomes a nearly unstoppable force once Karl Hyde starts spasmodically listing all sorts of "boys" and begins repeating "lager" to dramatic effect. Dance music is rarely so artistic and enjoyable in the same instance. The song wraps itself around a listener's body and mind, straddling the house and IDM genres with grace. Though this version of the song putters out before it reaches its conclusion, the song is a landmark of its genre. The first song is purely instrumental, with rising, racing synth sounds suggesting a futuristic hovercraft video game soundtrack. It's the sound of Underworld channeling Kraftwerk through state-of-the-art electronics. "Telematic" is less interesting and perhaps too repetitive for its own good; it sees the band members unable to find their usual stellar grasp of melody. The best track on this single has appeared on countless collections, most prominently on Trainspotting: Original Soundtrack, making this single ultimately less than essential. © Tim DiGravina /TiVo
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Electronic - Released September 18, 2020 | Caroline International (P&D)

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Electronic - Released January 1, 2014 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

The three-disc 1992-2012 anthology replaces the two-disc 1992-2002 as a generous overview of Underworld's lengthy second act. It was issued simultaneously with A Collection, a single-disc release featuring space-saving edits of the group's lengthier highlights. Bizarrely, this lacks some of the cuts included on A Collection -- namely "Beebop Hurry," "Downpipe," "The First Note Is Silent," and "King of Snake" -- and reserves the third disc for rarities, including B-sides, Japan-only bonus tracks, and compilation contributions. The cardboard foldout package is sturdy and holds a glossy, photo-packed booklet. Track information is minimal -- there's no release information whatsoever -- yet most of the photos have dates and locations. Like a lot of career overviews, this is somewhere between an introduction and a collector's item, but it initially retailed for the price of a single disc and holds an edge over the marginally less expensive A Collection. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Electronic - Released November 1, 2019 | Caroline International (P&D)

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Electronic - Released March 1, 1999 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Electronic - Released March 1, 1999 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Electronic - Released March 18, 2016 | Smith Hyde Productions

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In the six years since the release of their merely good effort Barking, electronica veterans Underworld were tied up with big things, like solo projects, Eno collaborations, film scores, and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, where they were musical directors for the opening ceremony. Take all that into consideration, and this excellent 2016 LP seems more closely linked to its predecessor, and acts like a natural swing-back-into-action after getting the too-busy-/tries-too-hard/return-to-form album out of the way. Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future is also an album longtime fans will instantly embrace, but it's an evolution as well. Bookended with excellent surprises, it opens with a dark, half-tempo track that's got Gary Numan in its veins ("I Exhale") and closes with a masterful work that mashes Kraftwerk, classical music, and the blissful Underworld found on their 1999 album Beaucoup Fish ("Nylon Strung"). The title "Low Burn" captures the album's mood while the song's lyrics "Be beautiful, be free" capture the spirit. Vocalist Karl Hyde proves to be a master of the cut-up style of writing throughout, reaching a high point on the acid house throwback "If Rah," where his layered words and phrases make him the optimist's version of William S. Burroughs. Member Rick Smith co-produces the album with the help of the group High Contrast, and the results are a lean effort that flows as well as their early albums, with the new age-y interlude "Santiago Cuatro" best taken in this context, and coming off plain and puzzling otherwise. Near perfect and a step forward as well, Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future belongs on Underworld's top shelf. If it's considered to be "late-era," it must also be considered "miraculous." © David Jeffries /TiVo
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Electronic - Released November 13, 2015 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Second Toughest in the Infants (1996) wasn't actually Underworld's sophomore album, but it was their second full-length (fourth overall) since progressive house DJ Darren Emerson joined the core lineup of Rick Smith and Karl Hyde in 1991, transforming them from a mediocre dance-rock duo into one of the most original, acclaimed, and successful electronic groups of the '90s. As with its predecessor, 1994's Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Second Toughest was a critical success as well as a commercial hit, reaching the Top 10 of the U.K. album charts and converting a significant number of American listeners right around the time that "electronica" was being hyped as the next big thing in the United States. In comparison to Dubnobass..., Second Toughest was less club-centric and more diverse in its approach, flirting with drum'n'bass rhythms on a few cuts, experimenting with slide guitar loops on the elegant "Blueski," and slowing to a crawl for its final song, the dreamy "Stagger." The trio proved to be masters of pacing and dynamics, crafting lengthy epics (the album's first two tracks collectively exceed half-an-hour) which excitedly build and release, flowing through vivid melodic themes and interlocking rhythmic patterns, and segueing from intricate breakbeats to calmer, more downtempo passages. The album's multi-part suites also harkened back to another era of "progressive" music, the prog rock of the '70s, and like that period's most popular groups, Underworld made brainy, ambitious, mystical music that was also accessible and listener-friendly. The album also remains remarkable for Hyde's surrealist, cryptic, free-associative lyrics, particularly on stand-out tracks like the choppy, Al Green-referencing single "Pearl's Girl." The album's most ecstatic moment, however, is the buzzing, gleeful "Rowla," which piles on dazzling, distorted synth riffs, hushes down for a bit, and then does it all over again. Second Toughest in the Infants endures as a landmark album, spotlighting Underworld at their creative peak, and remaining an important document of an era when experimental, cerebral electronic dance music received significant mainstream attention. © Paul Simpson /TiVo
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Electronic - Released July 27, 2018 | Caroline International

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It is said that this collaboration between one of the first punk artists in history, Iggy Pop, and the electronic trio 90's Underworld, is the most exciting of the year. Surprising, for sure, given what he said at the release of an electronic music set at Caprices Festival in 2007 (“I fucking hate this fucking techno shit. It’s fake.”). But it seems that the Stooges’ leader must have changed his mind, and so much the better because the result of this improbable fusion lives up to their reputation. Recorded in a hotel room transformed into a real studio by one of Underworld's members, Rick Smith, this four-track EP is the result of spontaneity and a combination of circumstances caused by the production of the soundtrack for the film T2 Trainspotting. In fact, it is a question here of setting out new cutlery but this time eating at the same table; the two names had already appeared in the credits of the first of Danny Boyle's films ("Lust for Life" for Iggy Pop and "Born Slippy (Nuxx)" for Underworld, of which the latter contributed mostly to the fame of the trio). “I turned up thinking, ‘I’ve got one chance here to convince this gentleman that we should work together” said Rick Smith about the record. “So I turned up with basically half my studio, hired a hotel room, set up and sat waiting.” Iggy Pop continues “When you are confronted with somebody who has a whole bloody studio there in the hotel room, a Skyped director who has won the Oscar recently and a fucking microphone in front of you and 30 finished pieces of very polished music, you don’t want to be the wimp that goes, ‘Uh-uhhh’, so my mind was racing”. © Sylvain Di Cristo/Qobuz 
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Electronic - Released January 1, 2014 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

As if they didn't have to prove they're still viable as a commercial and artistic outfit, Underworld's Rick Smith and Karl Hyde faced an additional challenge for A Hundred Days Off -- prove to the dance cognoscenti they could withstand the loss of Darren Emerson, the producer who kick-started the band when he joined in 1992. Underworld's trademarked sound, however, is mostly a creation of Smith and Hyde, and present from the opener, "Mo Move," wherein a dizzying cycle of gurgling bass, crepe paper percussion, and sequencers sets off Hyde's lonely, adrift vocals. The album reaches an early peak on "Two Months Off," with a repeated synthesizer riff playing off a brilliant succession of harmonies and basslines, with a hypnotizing performance by Hyde over the top. From there, the album heads off into a succession of familiar tracks, either po-mo acid house blues à la Dubnobasswithmyheadman ("Sola Sistim," "Trim," "Ballet Lane") or minimalist, pinpoint techno ("Dinosaur Adventure 3D," "Luetin"). Surprisingly, counter to expectations after the brash youngster leaves the fold, A Hundred Days Off doesn't suffer from the oldster syndrome; the production is edgy and up to date as usual. © John Bush /TiVo
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Electronic - Released November 13, 2015 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Second Toughest in the Infants (1996) wasn't actually Underworld's sophomore album, but it was their second full-length (fourth overall) since progressive house DJ Darren Emerson joined the core lineup of Rick Smith and Karl Hyde in 1991, transforming them from a mediocre dance-rock duo into one of the most original, acclaimed, and successful electronic groups of the '90s. As with its predecessor, 1994's Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Second Toughest was a critical success as well as a commercial hit, reaching the Top 10 of the U.K. album charts and converting a significant number of American listeners right around the time that "electronica" was being hyped as the next big thing in the United States. In comparison to Dubnobass..., Second Toughest was less club-centric and more diverse in its approach, flirting with drum'n'bass rhythms on a few cuts, experimenting with slide guitar loops on the elegant "Blueski," and slowing to a crawl for its final song, the dreamy "Stagger." The trio proved to be masters of pacing and dynamics, crafting lengthy epics (the album's first two tracks collectively exceed half-an-hour) which excitedly build and release, flowing through vivid melodic themes and interlocking rhythmic patterns, and segueing from intricate breakbeats to calmer, more downtempo passages. The album's multi-part suites also harkened back to another era of "progressive" music, the prog rock of the '70s, and like that period's most popular groups, Underworld made brainy, ambitious, mystical music that was also accessible and listener-friendly. The album also remains remarkable for Hyde's surrealist, cryptic, free-associative lyrics, particularly on stand-out tracks like the choppy, Al Green-referencing single "Pearl's Girl." The album's most ecstatic moment, however, is the buzzing, gleeful "Rowla," which piles on dazzling, distorted synth riffs, hushes down for a bit, and then does it all over again. Second Toughest in the Infants endures as a landmark album, spotlighting Underworld at their creative peak, and remaining an important document of an era when experimental, cerebral electronic dance music received significant mainstream attention. © Paul Simpson /TiVo
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Electronic - Released May 2, 2019 | Smith Hyde Productions

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Electronic - Released January 1, 2014 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

Underworld didn't become one of the biggest groups in the dance world by sitting in the studio all day, spending as much time making tea as producing tracks. Between records, the trio toured incessantly -- playing rock venues, dancefloors, major festivals all over the world -- and consistently made the single best case for techno working in a live (as opposed to club) context. So instead of a mix album (though alumnus Darren Emerson did record a volume in the Global Underground series), in mid-2000 Underworld released the live album Everything, Everything. And just like their studio LPs, this one works so well, not just because the tracks are so excellently produced, but because Underworld is so good at placing sympathetic tracks next to each other and creating effortless-sounding transitions. Each of the act's previous albums blended tracks so smoothly that new listeners were often forced to check the CD player just to see which track they're on at any second. Beginning here with "Juanita/Kiteless," the opening track(s) from 1996's Second Toughest in the Infants, Underworld tweaks the production slightly, then slides right into "Cups" and "Push Upstairs" from 1999's Beaucoup Fish. After pausing a few seconds to catch their breath (figuratively speaking) and accept some audience applause, the trio push onward into "Pearls Girl," perhaps the best production of their career and an obvious peak here. Granted, Underworld doesn't blend each transition on Everything, Everything, and Karl Hyde's vocals aren't always as perfect as on the LP. Still, excellent track selection (evenly distributed from all three LPs) and a winning performance let the band get nearly everything right on their first live album. © John Bush /TiVo