Underworld became one of the most crucial electronic acts of the 1990s with a progressive synthesis of old and new, an approach that has served them well through the late 2010s. The trio’s two-man front line, vocalist Karl Hyde and keyboard player Rick Smith, have been recording together since the early-’80s new wave explosion.
At its peak, the landscape of UK dance music was changing quicker than you could say ‘white label’, but a few features were reassuringly ever present – one of them was Underworld. What distinguished them was their ability to instil a deep soulfulness and empathetic humanity into even the most anthemic club banger. To that end, they fused together elements of techno, dub, trance, Krautrock, drum ’n’ bass, ambient house and even blues, complementing and contrasting not only sounds, but emotions, too, tying them together with Hyde’s frequently prescient, often opaque but always strikingly poetic lyrics. The colossal ‘Born Slippy’ thus packed a heart-rending existential ache along with that thrilling, jackhammer pulse and – immortalised as it was in Danny Boyle’s Zeitgeist-busting movie ‘Trainspotting’ – became a soundtrack for a generation. Small wonder it’s long since passed out of Underworld’s possession and entered the canon of British folk music.