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

Look in the Back for Answers

Anyone who’s met me knows that I’m a big fan of Underworld. I’ve got 227 of their albums, singles and shows between the various incarnations of UW/Freur/Screen Gemz and Lemon Interupt, and I’m always looking for more.

For the uninitiated, Rick and Karl have been making music together in one form or another since 1979. They are best known for the club track “Born Slippy Nuxx” from the movie, Trainspotting. (This site’s name is actually lifted from the song’s lyrics.)

Well part of Underworld’s humble beginnings was the Welsh synth pop band, Freur. Their only hit was an odd track called, “Doot Doot.”

I was absolutely blown away when “Doot Doot” resurfaced out of nowhere after twenty years, appearing in the Palm Pre cell phone commercial last summer.


I apologize – that is the creepiest girl on the planet.

While I have Freur’s extended discography and videography in digital format, I’ve been fortunate to acquire several of their original LPs as well.

Freur - Doot Doot 12in promo“Doot Doot” 12″ single

Freur - Doot Doot album“Doot Doot” album

Freur - Doot Doot picture disc“Doot Doot” 7″ picture disc

Freur - Runaway (Dun Difrunt)“Runaway (Dun Difrunt)” single

Freur - Matters of the Heart 7"“Matters of the Heart” 7″ single

Today I ventured into both Record Theater stores in the Buffalo area. I wasn’t in the first shop for 60 seconds when I found this!

Freur - Look in the Back for Answers“Look in the Back for Answers” single

It was particularly surprising because Freur LPs don’t turn up in shops in the states very often, and when they do 90% of them are copies of “Doot Doot.”

The single also includes one of my favorite Freur rarities, “Hey Ho Away We Go.” As an added bonus it ends with “Uncle Jeof,” a collection of taped travelogue and jams from their European tour.

I’m still looking for two Freur treasures. Get Us Out of Here was their second and final LP, released only in the Netherlands. It included “Look in the Back for Answers” and a few other fan favorites. The other item is their soundtrack to the movie, Transmutations, aka Underworld – the Clive Barker film from which the group would later take their name.  This soundtrack is not commercially available but bootlegs are known to exist.

Copies of Get Us Out of Here can easily be picked up for around $15, so long as you’re willing to pay shipping from Lithuania, Denmark, Germany or France.

While in the shop I took note of a number of new releases which had escaped my radar these past few months, including the double-LP collaboration between the Orb and David Gilmour titled Metallic Spheres.  Now I’ve got an evening’s worth of albums to research!