Underworld is my favorite band. The English duo is composed of lyricist/vocalist Karl Hyde and multi-instrumentalist/producer Rick Smith. Active since 1980, Underworld has always had a more mature take on dance music. It’s still a party, but a weird and wonderful one. I collect Underworld live bootlegs and I have almost everything they have released. Underworld has a very signature sound. Some of their tracks focus on minimal ambient pulses, while others are full blown rave epics. The lyrics often float by in fragments, like a strange dream. Unlike a lot of other dance music, there can be a wonderful subtlety to Underworld’s music.
A recent piece in the Guardian describes a major turning point in Underworld’s career;
The following sounds like a convenient myth, but it’s true: in 1990 Smith’s total income was £120, and his wife, Tracy, convinced him to change tack and make music he liked. “The best thing that ever happened to me,” Smith says. Interested in techno, he started working with young DJ Darren Emerson, and his world turned around. Hyde went along with him: “After 10 years of being conscious of what’s in the charts, what the record labels want, what we think we should be doing, which people didn’t get anyway, the minute our music got honest and personal, it became open to people.”
Being true to themselves helped Underworld connect with people in an honest way. It’s inspiring. Hyde and Smith don’t create tracks with cliche buildups or chase EDM trends. Underworld exists within their own musical space. Their latest album, Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future, showcases many of the qualities that make Underworld so great. It is one of the best albums of the year. The slow building track “Low Burn” is my favorite song off of the album. The stream-of-consciousness lyrics and the rolling beats mesh together beautifully and could only come from Underworld. The future is shining and it will be glorious.