Long Slow Slippy / Eventually But

I’ve just given a first-listen to Underworld’s limited edition special single for the new edit of “Born Slippy.nuxx” which appears in Trainspotting 2. The single arrived in a die-cut jacket with no inserts or download codes, confirming that this mix and its b-side are exclusive to this single. NME reported the tracklist for the movie soundtrack which features the b-side with a parenthetical ‘Spud’s Letter to Gail’ tagged onto the title, and a shorter edit of the a-side, “Long Slow Slippy” will appear as the album closer under the title, “Slow Slippy.”

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Side A is fairly cut and dry – it’s just born slippy.NUXX slowed down a bit. Not remarkable in its own right but perhaps it will have greater significance when I see its use in the film. (Sadly TS2 has yet to hit the States and I’d like to see it proper in the theatre.) The same goes doubly-so for the b-side.

While there is nothing quite as slippy as the original .NUXX, I am fond of a few oddball/fringe mixes which have surfaced over the years. The first is the “Dictionaraoke Remix” by Stop Children, from around the time AVid’s mixes were circulating. It’s basically a Google Dictionary recitation of Karl’s lyrics with the a canned backing beat. The mechanical delivery is really hilarious and worth checking out.

The other is “Born Sleepy”, an ambient downtempo interpretation of .NUXX. Nice for a bit of a wind-down. I don’t see it on YouTube at present but there are still copies kicking about.

But in my recollections of Slippy mixes past and present, there was a faint memory of Karl slowly speaking the lyrics in a measured, low-register tone – a track I hadn’t spun in years and couldn’t quite place.  Thankfully, a bit of digging through my collection, (I have 16 hours of Slippy mixes, alone) produced the track in question – it was an official mix released exclusively on the Born Slippy remix CD [V2 ‎– V2CP 166] issued only in Japan. The track is called “Born Slippy (Down Version)” and features the aforementioned ultra-slow vocals by Karl which work perfectly for this edit. Track it down – it’s really enjoyable.

dsc08424Where it all began – The original Born Slippy .NUXX on Junior Boys Own, UK May 1st, 1995 and the WaxTrax!/TVT US CD maxi single from 1996.

A Hundred Days Off Revisited

This evening on a late night drive back to the city, I queued up one of my favorite Underworld albums that I hadn’t spun in some time. I wanted to share it with various music communities online but felt an obligatory responsibility to defend the album, as it received a lot of undeserved heat upon its release.

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A Hundred Days Off (2002) was Underworld’s first full-length LP after the departure of Darren Emerson. Darren was a critical contributor to the trademark sound of Underworld Mk2, which spanned the album trilogy of Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Second Toughest in the Infants, and Beaucoup Fish. This chapter of the band concluded with the release of their live concert DVD, Everything Everything Live in 2000.

What followed with A Hundred Days Off and Rick and Karl’s subsequent LPs was a markedly more cerebral incarnation of the duo’s sound. AHDO traded in the floor-stomping anthems and “lager lager lager…” lyricism for more artful explorations of electronic music. Rejected by some of the clubbing community as weak or lifeless, these listeners were too quick to reject the ambient soundscapes, natural percussion, and polyrhythmic intricacies that make A Hundred Days Off such an enjoyable and enduring record.

Call it what you like – “album-oriented techno”, “progressive downtempo”, or “music for aging ravers”… just know that the best of the band’s recordings lie deep in the grooves beyond the club tracks of the late 1990s. And with The RiverRun Project, an array of web-only releases, and their music for both stage and screen, Underworld had an incredible wealth of music to offer after the dance floor had cleared at sunup.

The Innerspace Labs Top 100 Albums

Recently a vinyl community I frequent held a month-long event where members shared their Top 30 LPs. I had a wonderful time coming up with my list and writing small reviews for each title. Unfortunately, I had a terrible time limiting my list to just 30, and it quickly grew to a Top 100. (And even then, I’ve cheated here and there with multi-disc box sets and discographies.)

But it all seemed too good not to share here at Innerspace so please enjoy a gallery of 100 of my favorite albums. Mouse over any thumbnail for artist and title info and click any image to expand and view the full-resolution photograph. All albums are presented alphabetically by artist.

Have I made any glaring omissions? Any indisputable electronic classics? Let me know! Perhaps we’ll have to push it to 200…

Enjoy!

Underworld: A Guided Tour

Underworld has been producing music, art, and film for nearly 40 years.With over 500 albums, EPs, and singles, newcomers to their work might find their catalog daunting. If you are just such a listener, this is for you.  So you know “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” from Trainspotting, but are wondering where to venture next.

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Many listeners might be inclined to snatch up one of their compilations or anthologies. In 1999 they released a 3CD Singles Box Set, but it is not an ideal entry point as it focuses too heavily on Darren Emerson’s contributions and is heavily saturated with alternate mixes which do not showcase the band’s true talents.

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The next compilation issued was in 2012. A Collection’s opening track is a strange choice – a song by High Contrast featuring Tiesto and Underworld, which few fans associate with Underworld. And track 03, “Bebop Hurry” is a collaboration between Karl Hyde and Brian Eno taken from the Underworld vs the Misterons’ Athens LP.

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 Unfortunately neither function well as introductory material, nor are they representative of their artistic style. Still, the other tracks on this compilation are the meat and potatoes of the band. The majority of their biggest hits are here, but for the sake of constricting it to a single disc, all of the tracks have been edited down to radio-friendly durations, sacrificing the ethereal and progressive characteristics which occupy the minutes which have been trimmed away. New listeners would benefit far more if they were to take in the tracks in their original form.

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That same year, a 3-disc collection was issued called, The Anthology: 1992 – 2012.  Interestingly, this set does not serve as an off-the-shelf hits collection but instead is comprised of b-sides and odd tracks which act as snapshots of the band’s development. This made it a rewarding purchase for fans who already owned all of their major LPs.  It also presents the content in a chronological setting. Disc 1 is material from their Mk 2 phase around the recording of their massive breakthrough hit album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman. Disc 2 showcases recordings from around the Second Toughest in the Infants and Beaucoup Fish era, including their non-album mega-hit, “Born Slippy (Nuxx)”.  The fan-favorite concert closer, “Moaner” is here as well.  Disc 3 offers more rarities like “The Hump”, “Minneapolis”, and “Why Why Why”, and includes a few uptempo selections from the series of non-radio, meditative EPs released exclusively via Underworldlive.com during the early 2000s.  

So without an easily-digestible compilation, how is a new listener to approach the band’s staggeringly large discography? Underworld is best experienced in album form. They are not a singles artist. Each record adds a contextual value to the tracks which each stand well as a packaged project of their own. My advice is to begin with Dubnobasswithmyheadman. The record marked the second incarnation of the band after its synthpop beginnings in the 80s (and a one-off garage punk single in ‘79). Dubnobass was incredibly progressive given the sound of techno and house in 1994. It contains eternal hits like “Cowgirl” and “Dark and Long”.

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If you like what you hear on this album,  explore their evolution into their next two records which complete the Darren Emerson trilogy before he parted from the group. These albums are Second Toughest in the Infants and Beaucoup Fish, best known for singles like “Pearls Girl”, “Cups”, “King of Snake”, and the aforementioned epic, “Moaner”. But it’s their more explorative tracks which reveal the most about the band. The opener to Second Toughest is “Juanita: Kiteless : To Dream of Love” – a monumental piece which engages the listener for over 16 minutes. And the mellow, downtempo rhythm and effect-laden vocals of “Winjer from Beaucoup Fish will never see radio airplay, but is a fantastic and atmospheric tune.

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This era concluded with Everything Everything Live: The Definitive Underworld Experience.  Pick up the DVD – it captures the incredible energy of the band performing live at the peak of their popularity in 2000.

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If you’re interested in going deeper to explore their more intimate and cerebral work, it began in 2002 with A Hundred Days Off.  Every track contributes something unique to the set. “Two Months Off” was the radio A-side but the deeper cuts are far more rewarding.

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At this point in their career, the duo embarked on a side project of web-only albums dubbed, “The Riverrun series”.  These include:

(2005) Lovely Broken Thing
(2005) Pizza for Eggs
(2006) I’m a Big Sister, and I’m a Girl, and I’m a Princess, and This is my Horse

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Filed under ambient techno and progressive trance, these artful projects reveal a more intimate and contemplative side of the band.  And a series of singles from this series offer even more experimental b-sides worthy of listening.

2007 marked their return to the commercial market with Oblivion With Bells. This album features the hit, “Beautiful Burnout” and the startlingly ambient “To Heal” which was redubbed “Capa Meets the Sun” for the film, Sunshine.

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The 2010 album, Barking is their least popular record. “Always Loved a Film” and “Bird 1” saw some airplay and there was an art film of video vignettes for each track. Not their most essential work, but even Underworld’s worst ain’t bad.

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For years thereafter there was silence. Rick released his first solo album, Bungalow with Stairs in 2010. Karl soon followed with his own solo debut, Edgeland in 2013. It was wonderful stuff. Then he surprised and delighted fans by releasing not just one but two collaborative albums with fellow genre-defining artist and producer Brian Eno in 2014. The artists had worked together a few years earlier as members of the improvisational concert project, This is Pure Scenius!  “DBF” from their first collaboration titled, Someday World was energetic and complex and instantly fascinating.  Their follow-up, High Life further refined the duo’s sound with an album full of brilliant tracks. As a dedicated fan of both gentlemen’s work, these records were a dream come true.

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In 2014, the band released a special anniversary edition box set of Dubnobasswithmyheadman, newly remastered and featuring all of the odds and ends from the era, some of which were issued on The Anthology. Another remastered box set appeared the following year, this time of Second Toughest in the Infants.  And further anniversary remasters are expected in the years ahead.

Then in 2016, Underworld released their first new album as a band in six years. It was an absolute triumph of a record, proving to the world that these aging ravers still had what it takes to produce rich and exciting new sounds nearly 40 years into their career. With each new listen to the album, Barbara Barbara We Face a Shining Future, it becomes more and more rewarding an experience.

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So there you have it – a brief tour through the catalog of Underworld. Of course, not everything worth sampling is mentioned above.  With 510 releases, as well as a library of short films, art installations, and publications for both print and web from their art collective, Tomato, it would be impossible to highlight them all. But hopefully, this guide will serve sufficiently as an introduction to their work.

Happy listening.

 

Celebrating my Birthday as Only an Insane Fanatic Can

Today I celebrate my fast-approaching birthday with the album which, as a teen, revealed to me that a world existed outside of top 40 radio pop, and whose album art directly inspired my pursuit of a design degree.

Shamelessly celebrating as only a design fanatic can… with a shrine of custom-printed tees, buttons, concert memorabilia, the original UK LP, the 20th Anniversary deluxe edition, the WaxTrax US compact disc, and the custom album art skin for my new Chromebook which arrived today.

Thank you, Underworld for sticking with me for 20 beautiful years.

 

Dubnobass Chromebook FrontDubnobass Chromebook Back

Tune in with me this evening – I’m spinning the Super Deluxe 20th Anniversary Edition.  Cheers!

A Tour of the Listening Room!

My birthday is fast-approaching, and as you would suspect, I am impossible to shop for.  Despite this challenge, my fiance has successfully surprised and delighted me with her creative gifts more and more with each passing year.

This year I had more than once wondered aloud how much I would love a 2-row record bin to flip through my collection record store style.  But, as other household expenses have always taken precedence, I’d never gone ahead and ordered one.

But yesterday, my fiance with her thrifty eagle eye spotted a wood-framed beer cooler roadside with a large rectangular aluminum-lined cavity that, as luck would have it, measures precisely wide enough for two deep rows of polybagged LPs!  It even has an additional shelf underneath for oversize box sets!

It’s been so long since I’ve done a video, and this new acquisition seemed the perfect opportunity for an updated tour of my listening room.

Note: I neglected to mention in the video – Underworld’s quintessential album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman is not missing from the collection I present – it is framed on the wall opposite the Eno • Hyde Someday World art print!

A few of the unmentioned items featured include:

Atop the Bookshelf:
William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops Box Set
Cyril Ritchard Reads Alice in Wonderland + Facsimile Clothbound HC of the first edition
Tangerine Dream – In the Beginning…
Tom Waits – Orphans
Underworld – Dubnobasswithmyheadman Super Deluxe Anniversary Ed.
Underworld – Barking Super Deluxe Ed.
20 Years of Jethro Tull: The Definitive Collection
The Motown Story: The First Decade
Miles Davis at the Fillmore Box Set
Harmonia – Complete Works

Atop the Jazz/20th Century Avant-Garde/Funk & Soul/Blues/ and Proto Electronic Shelf:
Klaus Schulze + Pete Namlook – The Dark Side of the Moog Vol I-IV
Music From Some Guys in Space (Fan-Made Box Set)
FAX +49-69/45046 / Carpe Sonum – Die Welt Ist Klang: A Tribute to Pete Namlook
Lemon Jelly – lemonjelly.ky
Lemon Jelly – Lost Horizons
Lemon Jelly – ’64-’95 DVD box
The KLF Recovered & Remastered Collection (with new titles I’ll be featuring soon!)
and the Buckner & Garcia – “Pac-Man Fever” square pic disc

As for the contents of the record bin; I think I covered each of these in the vid… but let me know if you’re wondering about any titles in particular!

Thanks so much for watching and extra-special thanks to my dear fiance for doing the impossible year after year!

 

Published in: on June 4, 2016 at 11:31 am  Comments (1)  
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At It Again – New Works from Brian Eno and Underworld’s Karl Hyde

Friday saw the debut of Brian Eno’s latest album – The Ship following the release of ts epic 21-minute self-titled single.

DSC06858.JPGThe Ship accompanied by an official postcard from Eno • Hyde

Like so many of Eno’s albums, this record serves more to inspire thoughtful consideration and reflection than it does casual enjoyment. Unlike Discreet Music or Airports, this is not sonic wallpaper or furniture music, though it resonates a similar ethereal sonic quality. The Ship has a somber and harrowing essence, serving as a dire reflection on the Titanic disaster and the horrors of WWI. But the record maintains a meditative and cerebral tone rewarding to any listener who’ll give the album their full attention.

The double LP includes more of Eno’s art prints. The works are semblant of the visualizations from his 77 Million Paintings generative software. Not particularly inspiring, they function better conceptually rather than visually.

Also this week, Eno’s recent collaborator Karl Hyde released a short art film of an installation he produced for Underworld’s latest album, Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future. I found the fervent and tactile quality of Hyde’s work more engaging than the static nature of Eno’s prints.

Hyde’s Tokyo Street Poem features Soundscape by Underworld’s other half, Rick Smith and was exhibited at Parco, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan in March 2016 as part of the Tomato 25th Anniversary Exhibition.

Underworld also recently premiered a choreographed dance film for the album’s track, “If Rah”, but once again, I believe the concept was better executed by other artists in years prior.

Amelia: A Film by Edouard Lock With La La La Human Steps (2002) features David Lang’s cover of “I’m Waiting For My Man” with choreographed dancers Mistaya Hemmingway and Jason Shipley-Holmes. The film is striking and visually captivating.

Sigur Ros produced an equally effective film piece for their valtari film experiment – a collection of 16 short films made for the valtari album. The 2012 film features Ekki múkk, Valtari, Rembihnútur and Varúð. It is a passionate and emotive work.

If you missed my feature on Underworld’s latest album, check it out!  And I’ll be back next Saturday with my latest culturally-inspired creative and research projects.

Stay tuned!

Barbara, Barbara We Face a Shining Future

underworld in studioUnderworld portrait © Perou / Courtesy of the artist

For thirty-seven years, Rick Smith and Karl Hyde have been creating their own unique flavor of music, ranging from New Wave (with their first effort, a one-off single sold from the boot of Karl’s car as the Screen Gemz), to synth pop as Freur and Underworld Mk1, to progressive house experimentalism with their breakthrough self-reinvention on the album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman.  From there Underworld’s sound grew infinitely richer and more adventurous, with everything from dancefloor anthems to ambient scores for film and the stage, to providing a soundtrack for the London 2012 Olympic Games.  

By the present day, their catalog boasts an impressive tally of 510 albums, EPs, live releases, collaborations, solo efforts, and singles.  At 56 and 58 years old, the duo have been producing music longer than many of their listeners have been alive.  Releasing a new LP, the band’s first new recordings in six years, would be a daunting task for any artist. But instead, as Ian Mathers notes in his review for PopMatters, “this might be the most relaxed, subtly confident record they’ve put out in Underworld Mk II’s history.”

True veterans of electronic music, Barbara is artful and inventive and easily the freshest-sounding album I’ve heard all year thus far.

Casual listeners hoping for an album of “Born Slippy”s be warned – this is instead an intimate and reflective album capturing the emotive spirit the band has past-exemplified in their more meditative and mid-tempo tracks and, as Mathers notes, is more of a slow burn, a ‘Banstyle/Sappys Curry’ instead of a ‘Pearl’s Girl’.”

Slant Magazine revealed thatthe album’s title came from the mouth of Smith’s dying father, being among the final words he uttered to his wife.” And Spin Magazine adds that the album’s “stirring background vocals over ever-turning arpeggiated synths are provided by Smith’s daughter, Esme, and Hyde’s daughter, Tyler, carrying the torch (almost literally) for future ravers.”  This is what four-decade veterans of electronic music sound like in their most intimate and thoughtful moments.

The theme of the record approaches the shimmery, reflective territory Karl explored with an early edit of “Always Loved a Film”, (then dubbed “Silver Boots”) broadcast only once – on May 19th 2006 from the band’s Lemonworld Studio.  The track has long been a stand-out favorite of mine with its danceclub anthemic four on the floor beats delicately balanced by more complex and thoughtful elements which reveal themselves over the eleven minutes of the track.  

And ever-present are Karl’s trademark vocals – stripped bare of effects and showcasing curious conversational fragments expertly-described by Jon Dennis (of the Guardian) as “affecting, fractured evocations of the disorientations of modern urban life.” Karl speaks, “Maggie’s a doll and I’m a big sister / She’s a little girl and I’m a little princess / These are the weeds that live in the cracks / and these are the rails at the edge of the world.”  The phrases are puzzling  and disconnected, but function beautifully in an abstract sort of elegance.  This is what Underworld does best – and precisely what they’ve achieved with their wonderful new record.

Breaking the Fourth Wall (Typographic LPs)

Einmusik - Kleine Nachtmusik (2005)

I downloaded the image above from Marshall Watson back in 2005. Marshall used to travel the dirtyforum back in the day and won the Underworld remix contest for his version of “Bird 1”). While in 2005 it was a challenge to identify the single he holds in the shot, times have certainly changed by 2016.  Feeding the image into Google’s reverse image search now immediately produces the single’s credits.

The album is Einmusik – “Kleine Nachtmusik” (“A Little Night Music”) – minimal tech-house distributed by Germany’s famous Kompakt label.  I have to applaud this cover for it’s ballsy simplicity, even though I know it’s been done before.  After sampling the single on YouTube eleven years after I’d first spotting the cover I decided it was just the sort of thing I should have in my collection.  A few moments later I secured a clean copy from a collector in the US and this evening it arrived at my door.  It’s amazing how far music collectors have come with the empowerment of the digital age.

Here’s XTC’s second studio LP from 1978 – Go 2.  For those unfamiliar with this record, the text continues and fills the entire reverse side of the LP sleeve.

XTC - Go 2 (1978)

Most of the Remixes… by Soulwax is another typographical cover, this one from 2007. The cover clocks in 552 characters of text.

Soulwax Remixes aka_Most Of The Remixes We've Made For Other People Over The Years Except For The One (2007)

Dubstep artist, Skream opted for a humorously post-modern fourth-wall cover for Skream presents The Freeizm Album in 2010.

_Skream ‎– The Freeizm Album (2010)

And no feature on typographic covers is complete without mentioning Howlin’ Wolf…

Howlin' Wolf ‎– The Howlin' Wolf Album (1969)

EDIT: A reader kindly informed me that I’d made at least one glaring omission – and I felt it was my duty to correct the error.  Here is the fantastic The Faust Tapes from 1973!

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And tonight I’m proud to add“Kleine Nachtmusik” to my collection… eleven years in the making.  Here’s my newly-acquired copy, fittingly pictured beside an image of Karl Hyde.

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If you know of any similar covers I’d love to see ’em!

Second Toughest in the Infants… at LAST!

Why have one grail when you can have TWO? Followed up yesterday’s Kruder & Dorfmeister Sessions Remastered Edition with this treasure, also from Germany – an original press of Underworld’s Second Toughest in the Infants. This was the last of their vinyl-issued albums missing from my catalog of over 375 analog and digital albums, and it is so exciting to finally claim one for my own!

And, to top everything off, the seller threw in the classic “Rez / Cowgirl” single as a surprise gift!

Second Toughest was the incredible follow-up to the Underworld Mk 2 debut, Dubnobasswithmyheadman.  The record is equal-parts floor-stomping club anthems and cerebral, meditative headphone music.

Hyde’s stream-of-consciousness free form lyrical poetry deconstructs the objective properties of language and functions purely as a rhythmic device, complementing the subtle progression of Rick Smith’s atmospheric abstract techno.

This, like all of Underworld’s recordings, is a milestone for the ages.

Second Toughest

Published in: on May 5, 2015 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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