Underworld to release 20th anniversary re-master of 'dubwithnobasswithmyheadman' 3

UNDERWORLD- Dubnobasswithmyeadman 20th Anniversary (Universal)


It’s a thin line between exhaustive – a word which definitely sums up this 41 track commemorative edition of Underworld‘s debut album – and downright exhausting. But the fact that this five CD box set crosses that line from time to time shouldn’t distract from several important factors.

Firstly, ‘Dubnobass…’ was and indeed, is, a classic album. A classic which has worn surprisingly well with time. In 1994 it seemed expansive and unapologetically epic piece of work. Fast forward two decades later and it feels much more concise and to the point, spread over a mere nine tracks and yet travelling through a plethora of moods and atmospheres. They’ve spread their wings much wider since, taking on everything from the stadium techno anthem ‘Born Slippy’ to later experimental soundscapes, but here we encounter Underworld’s first serious incarnation, emerging from the progressive house scene and magically fusing electronica with dub production techniques and stream of consciousness lyric writing.

The second point to make is that the other four CDs do contain a fair selection of fascinating exclusive curios and lesser known releases definitely worth re-airing, Non-album tracks like ‘Bigmouth’, for example, which starts up like hi-NRG gay disco as remade by harmonica-toting Texas rednecks, before morphing into a snarling acid house monster. ‘Dogman Go Woof’, too, is a gloriously psychedelic slow burner which sounds like it’s been re-routed through a dozen or so flange pedals, urged along by a subtle, funky synchopation.

The selection of improvised jams on CD5, recorded at the band’s home studio and forming the basis of the album’s tracks, are rougher and less focussed, but certainly make for interesting if not utterly compulsive listening. Fans of The Orb‘s earlier, house-orientated workouts will see the link and no doubt approve.

And yet, despite all this, there’s no denying that there’s an awful lot of the stuff here. Do we, for instance, really need 13 tracks taken up purely by various mixes of the LP’s two best known tracks, ‘Dark and Long’ and ‘Mmm… Skyscraper I Love You’, especially given that most of them aren’t that different from the original. Probably not, is the answer.

Treat this box set more as an encyclopaedia to be dipped into than a single piece to be consume in its entirety, and you can see its appeal. If you’re a completist of Karl Hyde and co’s work, you’ll no doubt have been saving up all year for this. If you’re a bit more of a casual observer – with a more modest budget – we’d definitely suggest you’re wiser off with a trip to a second hand store to buy the original version, plus a select few purchases on iTunes.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.