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Underworld - DRIFT Series 1 Sampler Edition (Album Review)

Friday, 15 November 2019 Written by Graeme Marsh

In November 2018 Underworld’s Rick Smith and Karl Hyde started an ambitious experiment called ‘DRIFT Series 1’  that would involve art being released throughout the following 52 weeks, billed as “one year inside the minds of Underworld”.

The project would take the form of films as well as music, and the resulting box set now runs to a massive seven CDs, a Blu-Ray disc and 80-page book. The ‘Sampler Edition’ was released on the same day and offers a decent foothold if you’re thinking of tackling the whole shebang.

Despite boasting just 10 tracks which merely skim the surface of the full package, the ‘Sampler Edition’ packs a heavy punch. It contains some of the best music of the band’s almost 40 year career and, as a result, it’s a worthy addition to their catalogue as a standalone album in its own right.

At the heart of the ‘Sampler Edition’ are the best cuts from five ‘self-contained episodes’ in the shape of previously released EPs, and the way the album lifts off is exhilarating.

Appleshine,  from EP two ‘Atom’, belts along with a healthy, thumping pulse at its core. Its eight minutes undulate like a mesmerising ocean. This Must Be Drum Street – lifted from the third EP, ‘Heart’, is even better, riding a chugging Kraftwerk beat as Hyde asks: “Do you wanna buy my car?”

Listen To Their No continues the upward trend and easily sits alongside some of the duo’s best tracks. It feels around in the dark before striking up a classic groove—this is why God gave us Underworld, it’s that good. Following a highlight like that would never be easy but Border Country features yet another irrepressible beat as vocals swirl around for nearly seven minutes: you could get lost in this one.

From then on, though, it’s more of a mixed bag. Every silver lining clearly has a cloud and a few dull ones hang over the second half of the collection, most notably the sub two minute Mile Bush Pride. The continuous instruction to “push” during Schiphol Test will indeed test patience limits while the name-checking S T A R (Rebel Tech) is, well, a bit S H I T if we’re honest.

Imagine A Box recalls Beloved in a better moment, while the ambience of Brilliant Yes That Would Be will divide fans. The closer Custard Speedtalk, another from EP three, should unite all factions for a dreamy, compelling conclusion that approaches 10 minutes in length.

At times it can seem like the ‘DRIFT’ project was a little too experimental and feel slightly unfinished, but considering the vast undertaking that’s no real surprise. If dipping a toe into the enormity is all you want, Underworld have nailed it on the ‘Sample Edition’. It will also, however, give those more adventurous types an encouraging push to taste the lot.

Underworld Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat December 07 2019 - LONDON SSE Arena Wembley

Click here to compare & buy Underworld Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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