Pop: This Week's Album Releases - Underworld Beaucoup Fish (JBO/V2)

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The Independent Culture
UNDERWORLD'S THIRD album in their current incarnation is by some distance their least satisfying, representing neither a revolutionary advance beyond previous releases, nor a significant refinement of their techniques. It's not that it's a bad album as such. It's all pretty much as before, loops and beats cycling along in a state of slow flux, with a few contemplative moments punctuating the progress. It's just that there's less to commend the journey than before.

The 12-minute opener, "Cups", is typical: a minimal house pulse with tints of electric piano and blurry, treated vocals tracing the methodical thump, it builds slowly with almost subliminal increments of sound, to no particular conclusion. Gentle equalisation and filtration changes enable them to loop things for minutes at a time, effecting a painfully slow transformation that rarely seems worth the wait. The CD booklet is symbolic of the music, in that, having unfolded it again and again to reveal a six-panel design of a progressively enlarging umbra, you are struck by how much effort has been expended, to such underwhelming ends.