Drowned in Sound has an excellent interview with Karl Hyde today. They go very in-depth about many aspects of Underworld from Barking all the way back to the genesis of “Rez.”
We’d put out some club tunes that had done well and [Rick had] got to a point where he’d gone into the studio and couldn’t write anything. He came downstairs distraught and said to his wife, ‘I think I’m finished? I don’t think I’ve got anything left?’ Imagine that, how long ago ‘Rez’ was? Things would have been very different if that was the case. Anyway, his missus said ‘get back in that studio and don’t come out until you’ve written a great tune’ and he wrote ‘Rez’. Which spawned ‘Cowgirl’. We have a lot to thank those Essex girls for…
Head over to Drowned in Sound to read the entire interview.
Karl Hyde appears on this week’s podcast episode of Fresh Produce. He spoke about the process involved with creating Barking. The full interview transcript is available here.
You can download Episode 019 of Fresh Produce here. Karl appears at about 50:30.
Karl Hyde appeared on BBC Radio 6 Music’s Collins and Herring show last Saturday, guest-hosted by Chris Hawkins. Karl related the story of how he and Rick first met 30 years ago in Cardiff.
The show is available to listen again on BBC’s iPlayer until this Saturday morning. Karl’s interview starts at about 2:22:00 into the show.
Underworld have produced a new short video promoting upcoming live shows in support of Barking, the new album on sale now. The one-minute clip includes glimpses of some of the visuals one can expect on this tour, as well as Karl Hyde’s typically exuberant jumping-up-and-down in a very “mmmm” way.
The Quietus’ Mat Colgate has written a thoughtful piece on Underworld’s Karl Hyde and his idiosyncratic method of writing, with specific focus on Hyde and his literary ancestors’ fascinations with cities. Colgate also supports the piece with remarks from Karl, who he interviewed after a recent Underworld gig.
Using a mess of chance encounters, dumb lucky scrapes and snatched notes, front man Karl Hyde interrogates his surroundings before sifting through the debris and rearranging it into narratives – Walks, drinks, a night drive, the distance between your house and the cash point, that girl’s name – uncovering previously hidden levels of meaning and tactility, as well as presenting a soulful and affecting autobiography. The kind that only pop music can provide.
Using ten quid cameras but shooting from the hip. Literally, like a drunk would – because I was a drunk – put the camera on flash and just wander the back streets of Soho night after night. And so these things started to work. They pulled together note books which were walks through cities. And then when Rick came up with a piece that inspired me I’d look through the books and start putting my fingers in the pages and flicking them back and forth. I’d improvise and head off on a journey with the music.
Click here to read the whole piece at The Quietus.
A second helping of reviews of Underworld’s new album, Barking. For more reviews, click here.
My favorite song on Barking, “Diamond Jigsaw”, talks about a white stretch limo and features “pre-mi-um te-qui-la” prominently in its chorus. It sounds cheesy, but it’s fantastic: the world absolutely needs more songs about those nights when you’re flush with cash and having a really good time. Moreover, Underworld is exactly the type of band to write these songs, because aside from aging like rock stars, they also got rich like rock stars. There are worse places to end up than “thoughtfully content headliners,” and a recent, leaked live set/mix from the Privilege club in Ibiza proves that they can still transform their mid-level angst into thumping party-starters. [Link]
…between the twinkling keyboard filigrees that announce “Scribble,” which hearkens back to misty-eyed early rave, and “Hamburg Hotel,” which sounds like a ’70s jazz-funk breakdown elongated to five minutes, the music on Barking also shows a lighter (and flatter) touch. [Link]
Curiously, where Underworld was once a dark foil to what was generally a culture of peace, love and hedonism, in these grim times, “Barking” is a relatively upper’s affair, and something of a techno’s-greatest-bits. [Link]
…less of a return to form then a continuation of what has come before, from the euphoric dance floor fillers of Between The Stars and Always Loved A Film to the gentle raw piano off closing track Louisiana… [Link]
Rick Smith and Karl Hyde lack no talent for innovation. In a moment of rhythmic genius that has to be heard to be believed, a drum kick snaps the deep and philosophical meditation of “Moon In Water” into on-beat, strident electro pop vocals, while the vulnerability of acoustic piano provides a surprising opening to the album’s sunset. [Link]
Barking is, well, barking – a joyous bark at the moon; bark as in woody and real; and, of course, a paean to the Essex that informs so much of Karl Hyde’s writing. By bringing in current producers to remix the tracks, it’s also possibly Underworld’s poppiest ever (more so than Beaucoup Fish), yet retains their trademark dark heart. [Link]
Barking is diversified but cohesive. Pleasing but memorable. Nostalgic but still refreshing. It’s a very ambitious medley of different subgenres that you would never expect to find on a single record together, yet isn’t the slightest bit dissonant. Instead, Underworld takes advantage of its highs and lows and the fluctuating tonality to tell a story. Here is a group that truly stands out from its contemporaries. They are uncategorizable, just a couple of big big time boys. [Link]
Underworld’s session at BBC Maida Vale studios on Pete Tong’s Essential Selection show is now available for streaming on BBC’s iPlayer. It will be available until next week Friday.
The setlist for the show was:
Designer Heath Killen initiated last month on his Website a new series of articles examining the relationship between design and music with a must-read feature on Underworld, arguably the most successful union of designers and musicians. In the piece, Killen goes in-depth with John Warwicker, longtime friend of Underworld and member of Tomato, the art and design collective of which Rick Smith and Karl Hyde are also parts.
“On hearing the initial versions of the tracks and in conversation with both Rick and Karl the (reborn?) energy was evident and ‘of its time’. A counter-point to ‘Oblivion With Bells,’” Warwicker told Heath, referencing the artwork for Barking. “Of course our conversations are not purely about music or imagery they are about many things, including general cultural and social matters. All of this combined to make the colourful deconstructed ‘mess’ that became the cover.”
In addition to his interview with Warwicker, Killen provides his own learned insight into Tomato’s work with Underworld, spotlighting and commenting upon most of the major releases and campaigns, some of which we’ve excerpted below.
Underworld’s third album, [Dubnobasswithmyheadman] their first under the visual direction of John Warwicker and Tomato, marked a significant evolutionary jump in both the musical and visual identity of Underworld. The artwork is dark, chaotic and typographic. The music is layered, hypnotic and narcotic. This release signaled that there was something truly special about the band – from the signature sounds they were making, to Karl Hyde’s steam-of-consciousness vocal poetry, to the indecipherable and utterly compelling artwork it was packaged in. – Killen
We are in constant touch with other so the ongoing conversation shapes what we all do. When asked about how tomato works i’ve always replied ‘it’s a bit like alcoholics anonymous, it’s a support system and critical forum’. Of course there are certain moments when this support and criticism is more pertinent than at other times but the effect of this rarely manifests itself in a major way it shapes and guides on a day to day basis. – Warwicker
At my most personal I see words and ideas like musical phrases (more poetry than literature) and typography as having similarities with music … tone, timbre, rhythm, ‘voice’. That is what I am trying to achieve, as in my book ‘The Floating World‘ and ‘Mmm… Skyscraper, I Love You’ as examples. – Warwicker
Tomato is different to most design groups that I know about, in that there is not a ‘style’ that dominates or shapes any expression. Tomato was initiated as a conversation/support system/critical forum rather than a studio interested in modernist expression (as an example). Tomato is set up to support the individuals on their own exploratory journey and whatever form that might take. It is expansive rather than reductive. This is not a criticism of other studios, far from it. it’s just how we are. the onus on everyone is to bring back something different whether it be an improvement in craft or something radically different, something unexpected. – Warwicker
One thing that all Underworld covers share is the sense of the hand-crafted, the use of material, ink, paint and paper. Even when the work is purely digitally, there’s still a rawness and grittiness to it all that makes it feel special and unique. - Killen
For more of this excellent material with John Warwicker, including anecdotes specific to several designs, please visit Heath Killen’s site.
Underworld’s recording session at the BBC’s Maida Vale studio will be broadcast on Pete Tong on Radio 1 on Friday, September 17, starting at 9:00 PM. Program information is available here. It will also be available for listening on BBC’s iPlayer for 1 week after the broadcast.
Underworld recorded the intimate show in Studio MV4 on Wednesday night in front of 30 audience members. This is the same studio in which the John Peel session was recorded in 2003.
Born Dirty brings you a tasting menu of the first round of Barking reviews.
That Barking is not an unqualified success is hardly surprising, but it does show Underworld reinvigorated to make music for dancefloors. Which, as anyone who has raved to “King Of Snake” will testify, is no bad thing. [Link]
Barking, their sixth album since 1994, shows a band trying very hard to match former glories and fairly often succeeding… Kudos to Underworld for reaching out to others for inspiration – but they could’ve picked a bit more discerningly; definitely an album to play pick’n'mix with. [Link]
Although this is hardly Underworld at its finest, the duo’s songwriting fits the mainstream productions and results in a solid dance album for the 2010s — music for aging-raver activities like driving cars, pushing swings, or jogging on treadmills. [Link]
What Underworld always retain is a unique warmth that exudes in great generous pulses from everything they do. There’s a lightness and a jollity about their music which combines with an unabashed poignancy, and there’s a sense of deep contentment and peace about this album. [Link]
…with production help from High Contrast, Dubfire, and Paul Van Dyk, Underworld is freed up to focus on crafting memorable tunes that hark back to their electronica heyday, as well as more personal, coherent lyrics. Earnest emotions surprisingly suit these dance-floor surrealists. [Link]
This record can be seen as a work of celebration – celebrating the fact that they are still producing music and paying homage to the new and current generation of DJs and producers – while residing in the comforting notion that they have already proven all that they have to prove. [Link]
…the songs here are a harmonious marriage of the classic, propulsive Underworld sound and the kind of techniques and textures that postdate most of their career. It’s interesting that an album with so much outside input highlights the band’s populist, maximalist side. [Link]
Thanks to Dirty Forums member Bargo for tracking down many of these reviews.