February Featured Artist: Mr. Karl Hyde

A dear friend recently stated that “Sometimes I think the only point of going to college was for me to find out about Underworld’s A Hundred Days Off album.”  I replied that it was one of the most beautiful sentences I’d ever read.

And it came at an opportune juncture, as there is brilliant Underworld news afoot.

Karl (the lead, founding member) has released his first-ever solo record.  And you need to go buy it right now.

Karl Hyde - Edgeland

I touched upon this album in my post from mid-December, which served as more of a sample analysis of the LP than a proper review, but now that I’ve had time to really digest the album I thought it appropriate to explore the record and his recent live performances in greater depth.

Karl’s debut solo show at The Union Chapel on April 25th 2013 featured several UW rarities and classics, many performed live for the first time in his 35-year career.

The genre tag for the new LP is listed as “Ethereal” and honestly I could not dream up a more fitting term.  It explores the more intimate progressive sounds which kept bringing listeners back to A Hundred Days Off, and to many of Karl’s more exploratory “deep cuts” over the years.

This first-ever live track is “8 Ball,” originally issued exclusively on the soundtrack to the film, The Beach 14 years ago.  Karl concluded the Union Chapel show with this treat, and it’s wonderful to see him filled with joy at the end of the performance.

And here is “Dirty Epic” from the same show. “Epic” was the first track on his first release as Underworld Mk2.  Underworld Mk1 was a synth pop extension of his earlier band, Freur. But Dubnobasswithmyheadman was brilliantly progressive and a milestone in the history of electronic music. Karl’s stream-of-consciousness sexually-charged lyricism takes center stage in this more intimate interpretation of the now 20-year old trance anthem.

And finally, here was the mind-blowing surprise track of the night. Watch below as Karl performs the track which first exposed him to musical celebrity – the Welsh synthpop one-hit-wonder Freur released in 1983 – “Doot Doot.” This is the first time in 30 years that Karl has performed the song.  And without the electric drum kit or synth keyboards, it takes on a much more mature mood.  Fans who have been following Karl since his humble beginnings were awestruck to hear the track performed by a a man who, at the age of 57 has guided the direction of electronic music for the last three decades.

Now onto Edgeland – Karl’s first official release without his bandmate, Rick Smith.  I came to this record without having heard a single note before I dropped the needle on my own copy.  I made no hesitation about ordering it – Karl has never let me down and Edgeland proved to be no exception.

Karl_Hyde - Edgeland 2013-5.16.2013 Inner Jacket

A few words on Edgeland’s production value:

This is an elegant and mature recording – rare form in an electronic genre plagued by contemporary trends like brostep and heavily-compressed electro pop.

Examining “Perfume” we find a simple, low-fi sawtooth wave paired with a melody supplied by Karl’s Gibson SG guitar.  But headphone listening reveals several other instrumental nuances.  Similarly, subtle choral harmonic effects support and enrich his vocals.  Both of these effects are masterfully executed and clearly separate this record from the bland pop that dominates the genre.

And here is the video of the album’s single – “The Boy With The Jigsaw Puzzle Fingers.”

The track exudes Karl’s intellectual refinement and his overwhelming joy.  The record is a proud sonic declaration of who he is – capturing the musical voice that exists within Mr. Hyde, outside of the sold-out arenas in Tokyo, and away from the rave anthems of the music festivals.  We are hearing Karl’s true voice, independent of Underworld, of the genre, and free of expectation or responsibility.

And his voice is beautiful.

Thanks, Karl.

Karl Hyde Press Photo

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