Underworld: Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future | Virgin Media
Underworld: Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future

Underworld: Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining FutureAlbum review by Matthew Horton | Rating: ★★★★☆

18/03/2016

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Underworld have been around for donkey's years now, struggling under various guises throughout the 1980s, then coming up with one of the all-time great techno albums in 1994's dubnobasswithmyheadman, creating Trainspotting earworm Born Slippy and finally shifting gear to become elder statesmen of dance. It's been five years since last album Barking; time to check in with Karl Hyde and Rick Smith again.

So much should have changed, but somehow it hasn't, and thank goodness for that. Hyde and Smith are still in the business of shuddering, driving beats, found-sound poetry and unexpectedly lovely melodies, their power undiminished. The moment opener I Exhale locks into a satisfying, motorik thump, it's clear we're set for quintessential Underworld.

If Rah follows, a chunkier electro cousin to LCD Soundsystem's Losing My Edge, with Hyde opening his notebook of overheard phrases. "The origin of numbers is a questionable hypothesis," he drawls, words that obviously made sense on some tube journey or other. He's lost in the mix on Low Burn, its housey clatter aimed more at the feet than the head.

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The pace gradually changes. Motorhome divests its bleeps and twangs to become an almost devotional, Beatle-y sing-along, and now it's a softer ambience. Ova Nova might hurtle along, its hands in the air as Hyde repeats "Everybody, everybody, everybody", but it's a gentle groove, somehow bucolic.

Nylon Strung makes similarly sensitive use of rave synths, its imprecation of "Carry me" bringing some forlorn heart to its jacking throb. The balance of four-to-the-floor beats and emotional core is a neat trick, but it's one Underworld have pulled off for decades. And it's still a privilege to witness.

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