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Beaucoup Fish

In comparison with 1996's [B]'Second Toughest In The Infants'[/B], [B]'Beaucoup Fish'[/B] is cleaner, less cluttered, the meditative prog detailing that made its predecessor sag, brutally expunged.

Beaucoup Fish

8 / 10 And he's singing the boy's singing a raving visionary boy a tumbling stream-of-consciousness boy a rapidly approaching middle-age boy thing actually but he's singing no he's ranting cutting and pasting words repeating and reshaping and the words chase the beats and the beats plot a fast and measured course towards infinity and it's so relentless so relentless and he's dancing dancing like a holy fool speaking in tongues shouting lager lager lager shouting bollocks sorry wrong song shouting on and on and on.

And on. This is the essence of 'Beaucoup Fish', Underworld's remarkable third album: 74 minutes of largely unreconstructed techno pulsing with a hyperactive big-eyed man, possibly old enough to know better, gibbering over the top. Piece of piss, mate.

Except, of course, it isn't. The beauty of 'Beaucoup Fish' is the way it makes the tremendously clever seem like the simplest and highest music you can imagine. It's the sound of three men in pursuit of transcendence through music, a ruthless and streamlined creation in a different class to pretty much everything Underworld have done before. In comparison with 1996's 'Second Toughest In The Infants', 'Beaucoup Fish' is cleaner, less cluttered, the meditative prog detailing that made its predecessor sag, brutally expunged.

Instead, we're presented with a futuristic record that sounds refreshingly old-fashioned. Apart from the cranking breakbeats of 'Bruce Lee' (ace mechanic baggy hybrid) and the album's one weak link, 'Skym' (Martin Gore-style goth whingeing, roughly), 'Beaucoup Fish' is a pure, seamless flow, pinned together with trance-techno beats that hark back to classic Detroit house and early Underworld singles like 'Cowgirl' and 'Spikee'. The absence of quirky samples and lame big beats make it all sound, right now, strangely radical.

It's also, in line with those influences, both intense and euphoric. 'Shudder/King Of Snake' updates the punishingly exact systems of Giorgio Moroder (specifically 'I Feel Love'), chucks in a looped Italian house piano riff and the odd acid hiss, locks on to a massive piledriving groove and comes across, not too self-consciously, as a sleek summation of 25 years of electronic dance music.

'Moaner', meanwhile, is almost overwhelming: dark and long and lunging harder and harder to climax after climax, with Karl Hyde playing word association games on the themes of cities and boyfriends and, memorably, "animal boy things" while giving the distinct impression he's completely losing the plot. It's the one to displace 'Born Slippy' as their theme tune, the final justification of why Underworld matter. Machines programmed to attack. Karl Hyde demented and poetic. Breathtaking ferocity. A good beat. No messing about. Pushing on and on and on towards some distant musical event horizon. There are rare moments when even the longest albums feel like they should go on forever: this, emphatically, is one of them.

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