Thumping Ambiance For The Sophisticated RaverBy Daniel J. Katz
If you’ve never read more than thirty pages of a novel for recreation, chances are that Underworld’s Beaucoup Fish is not for you. While it makes nice background music for almost any activity, actively listening to these tracks of extended repetitious electronica requires quite an attention span. Underworld’s music is built around beats that simply don’t change while other instruments are added and taken away. Their music has enough of an edge to separate it from trance, but it’s not nearly as eclectic as Prodigy or the Chemical Brothers.
Because all of the songs on the album are backed with an incessant, thumping rhythm, it is difficult to listen to them without being reminded of a dance club (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). However, there is some range in the styles of dance. Songs like “Something Like A Mama” and “Kittens” are driven by breakbeats and shuffling drum lines, while “Moaner” and “Shudder/King of Snake” are propelled by stumbling synthesized bass. Although the songs are all legitimately different, after listening for a long time they start to fuse in one’s mind until only the steady thump contained in all of them remains.
The lyrics (yes, there are lyrics) are sparse, but when they do show up in songs they’re rambling and syncopated, creating a nice counterpoint to the music around them. The best example of this technique is in “Push Upstairs”, the brilliantly crafted first single, and “Push Downstairs”, its counterpart. Both contain the same stream-of-consciousness lyrics ( “Tina lives in Berlin, her voice so seldom on my machine is here tonight...”), but in the former they occur over driving piano and guitar lines, while the latter features soothing synthesizers. The lyrics fit into both very nicely, and these two tracks are the highlights of the album. Another excellent track is the closer, “Moaner”, which features a strong bass riff and later in the song, piercing sounds. And the most intriguing rhythm line on the disc is the clanging found in “Bruce Lee”. But despite these various strong points, in the end it’s still hard to distinguish one track from another.
Beaucoup Fish is truly a niche album; it’s good at what it’s meant to be good at. This is the kind of album that’s made to serve as background for a party or rave, or just to keep you working at a steady pace. Personally, my electronic tastes sway to more active music like Propellerheads or Fat Boy Slim, but it’s refreshing to change once in a while. You’re not likely to find your favorite song of all time here (although “Push Upstairs” is definitely enjoyable), but if you’re going to be sitting in one place for 75 minutes, Beaucoup’s a good way to help your ears pass the time.