Beaucoup Fish CD (1999)Underworld
First Released in 1999.
Underworld’s third album begins with pure tranquillity. Arching synthesised strings evoke that famous house sound of Chicago. There’s space and there’s light. And then there’s the first plunge. Fused together, the bassline and drum track create a sense of sleek motion through city streets at night. When a voice arrives, it has the processed nonchalance of a replicant floating across every skip and bounce with a cool detachment. In time, the steady motion of the groove begins to surge and buckle. Eddies of sound swirl and switch and the rhythm becomes more forceful. The effect is disorientating – the environment has changed, the track has plunged again. There’s light again and now it’s blinding. Chicago becomes Detroit as the glassy cool of house gives way to techno’s mechanical futurism. Ten and a half minutes in and the tranquillity’s long gone, displaced by an almighty electronic squall - a gleeful, euphoric chaos of synthetic stabs and digitised chatter. All that’s come before has been enveloped in this noise; erased by it. There’s no Chicago, no Detroit anymore. There’s only Essex.
Initially teased with the title Tonight Matthew, I’m Going To Be Underworld, Beaucoup Fish was the band’s first album post-Born Slippy: NUXX. Where previous singles had been club and specialist radio hits, NUXX was like a thundering techno juggernaut that flattened all before it. It was unarguably the sound of summer ’96.
But if it created any external pressure for a follow up, you be hard pushed to hear it on Beaucoup Fish. What you do hear is a band expanding their sonic palette further, eschewing quick fixes and . The techno is more forceful than ever (King of Snake, Kittens, Moaner), the progressive sounds are bleaker, weirder (Winjer, Skym), the rhythmic experiments are stranger, more addictive (Bruce Lee, Something Like A Mama), the dub is heavier and swings lower (Push Downstairs). And on Jumbo, there’s a tumbling melody that’s almost celestial in its beauty.
In fact, it’s one of the most striking things about Beaucoup Fish. There was never any desire to repeat the band’s recent past, only a determination to keep pushing - pushing - forward.