Release Date: Jan 23, 2012
Record label: Cooking Vinyl Records
Genre(s): Electronic, Electronica, Techno, Club/Dance, Progressive House
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.
Not everybody is around for 20 years or more, and not everybody who makes it that far deserves much of a commemoration. But questions of longevity aside (and continued productivity—2010’s Barking continued Underworld’s strong third act, and between soundtrack work and being the musical directors for the London Olympics, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith show no signs of slowing down), Underworld are justly a big deal. For years they’ve made excellent, emotionally clued-in, endlessly pleasurable techno, and in a lot of ways their blurring of the lines between techno and rock, dance music and emotional/psychological/observational narratives, home listening and club listening, make them the forerunners of a lot of what’s currently interesting and popular in dance music.
Even when Underworld weren't big, they always aimed at being huge. I don't just mean the widescreen progressive house they made, two decades of which are collected on the 25 tracks of the new Anthology, but their brand of not-quite-trance/not-quite-techno floor-fillers were indeed self-consciously epic and transportive. Following the late-1980s acid-house revelation that turned so many UK synth-pop also-rans into DJ kings, Underworld came to specialize in the kind of dance music that felt constrained in a tiny club space, records with enough space and depth to lose yourself in the swirl and flow, whether you were standing in a festival field surrounded by thousands of other bodies or strapped into a pair of headphones on your lonesome.