Underworld’s improvisatory approach to songwriting is good news for box sets. No need to look down the back of the sofa for demos when you have hours of unreleased material. In fact, you could construct another two albums from offcuts as substantial as the serpentine Bloody 1 and the slow-burning Bug. While their debut, dubnobasswithmyheadman, showed the trio discovering their sound, their second album, released in 1996, found them mastering it. It’s more abstract, fluid and expansive, extending its tentacles into diamond-hard techno and the relatively new sound of drum’n’bass during audaciously long art-rave suites that end up some distance from where they began. The fourth disc tracks the complicated evolution of their biggest hit, Born Slippy (Nuxx), via seven different versions, making the listener feel like part of the workshopping process. Underworld’s brilliance came from knowing what to leave out – but what they left out was pretty damn good.
Underworld: Second Toughest in the Infants box set review – abstract, expansive art-techno
Dorian Lynskey is a writer, podcaster and author of 33 Revolutions Per Minute and The Ministry of Truth