Underworld (UK electronic music group)

~ Group

Annotation

Underworld
history

Underworld – the British duo Karl Hyde and Rick Smith – have been one of the most pioneering and influential electronic acts in the world for more than twenty years. In that time, their music has transcended club dancefloors and provided soundtracks to everything from iconic movies (Trainspotting) to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games (for which they were handpicked as musical directors).

Rick and Karl met in Cardiff in the early ’80s and spent the following decade working together in a succession of bands with varying levels of success (highlights included a stint in the studio with Krautrock godfather Conny Plank and a Top 10 single in Italy as Freur). After splitting up an earlier version of Underworld (usually referred to as Mk 1), Rick relocated to Romford, Essex where he built a studio in his spare bedroom. A new version of Underworld began after Smith met a local up-and-coming DJ, Darren Emerson. Emerson’s sets in London clubs proved influential on Rick who began making music inspired by the sounds of UK’s nascent dance scene.

After a brace of singles released under the name Lemon Interrupt, the reinvigorated Underworld released Mmm Skyscraper… I Love You - a thirteen-minute blueprint for their future. Sounding unlike any other electronic record of that era (or since), the 1992 single fitted Karl’s hallucinogenic monologue to a rolling, relentless rhythm track. The dynamic may have been that of a band; the execution was something far more otherworldly. The album that followed – 1994’s hugely acclaimed dubnobasswithmyheadman – seamlessly blended man and machine to create ‘dance music utterly unlike any other dance music’ (Mojo).

In the months that followed the release of dubnobasswithmyheadman, Underworld built a formidable live reputation. Gigs became communions where songs were pulled in new directions and rearranged to suit the mood nightly. The band’s freeform shows set them apart from the more structured approach of their contemporaries.

Released early in 1996, Underworld’s second album – Second Toughest In The Infants – saw the band push further into the unknown to create what is unarguably one of the UK’s greatest electronic records – an utterly unique eight track sonic journey through techno, drum’n’bass, minimalist composition and ambient music. Upon release, the media elevated the band to something close to national treasure status (“A British band to rank alongside Pet Shop Boys, New Order… hell, Pink Floyd. If all acid house had ever left us was this, it would surely be justification enough” The Face).

Second Toughest…’s release coincided with that of Danny Boyle’s massively successful adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting - the closing sequence of which was cut to an Underworld B-side from 1995 (Born Slippy: NUXX). By the time the track was reissued in the summer of ’96 after the success of the film, Born Slippy: NUXX had attained anthem status. The single would reach No 2 in the charts and go on to sell over one million copies in the UK.

Underworld’s third album - 1999’s Beaucoup Fish – was another critically lauded release (“There are rare moments when even the longest albums feel like they should go on forever: this, emphatically, is one of them” NME) and remains the band’s biggest selling to date. The record’s crossover success soon saw the band booked for main stage slots at festivals the world over, in turn becoming one of the most recognizable electronic acts around. Many of those performances were captured on film and audio for Everything, Everything – a live project that saw the band experimenting with fledgling DVD technology.

Soon after the Beaucoup Fish tour finished, Darren Emerson left Underworld to pursue solo projects. Continuing as a duo, Rick and Karl subsequently released an album - A Hundred Days Off (2002, “A very fine Underworld album – they don’t make any other kind… a beautiful and baffling enigma” Uncut, 4 out of 5) - that was preceded by the massive radio and club hit Two Months Off.

In 2006, Underworld began to explore the emerging possibilities of the Internet and direct selling when they released the Riverrun series. Ever the innovators, the band were one of the first major acts to release music solely in the digital market. The Riverrun releases (Lovely Broken Thing, Pizza for Eggs and I’m A Big Sister and I’m a Girl, and I’m a Princess, and This Is My Horse) presented new music mixed into freeform, single-track compilations and pointed towards the more experimental nature of 2007’s Oblivion With Bells (“Less the comedown than the sound of the party still going 10 years on.” NME, 8 out of 10).

Following a period soundtracking both Danny Boyle’s Sunshine and Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering, Rick and Karl released Barking in 2010 (“a harmonious marriage of the classic, propulsive Underworld sound and the kind of techniques and textures that postdate most of their career” Resident Advisor). The album saw the duo working with a handpicked selection of contemporary producers (including Mark Knight, High Contrast, Dubfire and Paul Van Dyk), many of who had been heavily influenced by the band when starting out.

Shortly after Barking’s release, Underworld were confirmed as musical directors for the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. Directed by Danny Boyle and titled Isles of Wonder, the opening ceremony was viewed by 900 million people worldwide, including 27 million in the UK alone. Later that year, the band received Q magazine’s Innovation in Sound award.

In the autumn of 2014, Underworld reissued dubnobasswithmyheadman in deluxe form for its twentieth anniversary. The album was universally hailed as a classic (“Acclaimed at the time as the most important album since the Stone Roses’ debut, dubnobasswithmyheadman is no less singular and compelling 20 years later… the album sounds like a city talking to itself after dark.” The Guardian, "A revolutionary record." The Quietus), a one-off show playing the album in its entirely at London’s iconic Royal Festival Hall sold out in seconds.

The dubnobass… reissue (followed in 2015 by a deluxe edition of Second Toughest In The Infants) and subsequent tour dates around the world.

Annotation last modified on 2015-11-19 10:10 UTC.

Discography

Album

YearTitleArtistRatingReleases
1988Underneath the RadarUnderworld2
1989Change the WeatherUnderworld2
1993DubnobasswithmyheadmanUnderworld4.616
1996Second Toughest in the InfantsUnderworld4.3511
1999Beaucoup FishUnderworld3.815
2002A Hundred Days OffUnderworld3.54
2007Oblivion With BellsUnderworld3.359
2010BarkingUnderworld48
2016Barbara Barbara, we face a shining futureUnderworld5
2019Drift Series 1Underworld23

Album + Compilation

YearTitleArtistRatingReleases
1999King of Snake / Jumbo / Push Upstairs / Bruce LeeUnderworld51
2003Back to Mine: UnderworldUnderworld3
20031992-2002Underworld5
20111992-2012: The AnthologyUnderworld3
2011A CollectionUnderworld2
2016A Collection 2Underworld1
2019DRIFT Series 1 – Sampler EditionUnderworld4

Album + Compilation + DJ-mix

YearTitleArtistRatingReleases
2009AthensUnderworld vs The Misterons1

Album + Interview

YearTitleArtistRatingReleases
2011RA.EX043 UnderworldUnderworld1

Album + Live

YearTitleArtistRatingReleases
2000Everything, EverythingUnderworld55
2005Live in TokyoUnderworld1
2007Birmingham Academy. England 9.10.2007Underworld1
2007Glasgow Academy. Scotland 13.10.2007Underworld1
2007Manchester Apollo. England 16.10.2007Underworld1
2007London Roundhouse. England 17.10.2007Underworld1
2007London Roundhouse, England 18.10.2007Underworld1
2007Live at the Oblivion BallUnderworld1
2008Köln Palladium. Germany 28.01.2008Underworld1
2008Rotterdam Massilo. Holland 29.01.2008Underworld1
2008Amsterdam Heineken Music Hall. Holland 30.01.2008Underworld1
2008Ancienne Belgique, Brussels. Belgium 31.01.2008Underworld1
2008London Roundhouse. England 28.02.2008Underworld1
2008London Roundhouse. England 29.02.2008Underworld1
2008Brixton Academy, London, England. 31.10.2008Underworld1
2008Brixton Academy, London, England. 01.11.2008Underworld1
2010iTunes Festival: London 2010Underworld1
2016Live at Summer Sonic 2016Underworld1

Album + Remix

YearTitleArtistRatingReleases
2008The Bells The BellsUnderworld1

Album + Soundtrack

YearTitleArtistRatingReleases
2006Breaking and EnteringUnderworld & Gabriel Yared2
2007Sunshine: Music from the Motion PictureJohn Murphy & Underworld2
2011FrankensteinUnderworld2
2019Manchester Street Poem (Installation Score)Underworld1

Single

YearTitleArtistRatingReleases
1989Stand UpUnderworld2
1989ThrashUnderworld1
1990Change the WeatherUnderworld1
1992Mother Earth / The HumpUnderworld1
1993Mmm… Skyscraper I Love YouUnderworld31
1993Spikee / Dogman Go WoofUnderworld31
1994Rez / CowgirlUnderworld42
1994Dark & LongUnderworld46
1994CowgirlUnderworld47
1994Dirty Epic / CowgirlUnderworld2
1995Born SlippyUnderworld519
1996Pearl's GirlUnderworld47
1997MoanerUnderworld41
1999Push UpstairsUnderworld49
1999JumboUnderworld56
1999Bruce LeeUnderworld4
2002Two Months OffUnderworld57
2002Dinosaur Adventure 3DUnderworld7
2005JAL to TokyoUnderworld3
2006Peggy SussedUnderworld1
2007CrocodileUnderworld45
2007Beautiful BurnoutUnderworld4
2007Boy, Boy, BoyUnderworld1
2008Ring RoadUnderworld2
200802-02-02Underworld51
2008Holding the MothUnderworld1
2008PhonestrapUnderworld1
2009DownpipeMark Knight & D. Ramirez vs. Underworld1
2009My SunshineUnderworld feat. Sky1
2010Always Loved a FilmUnderworld2
2011Diamond JigsawUnderworld2
2011Diamond Jigsaw (Club Mixes)Underworld1
2013Rez (Bassnectar remix)Underworld2
2013TenSander van Doorn & Mark Knight V Underworld1
2015Shining Future, Pt. 1Underworld1
2016I ExhaleUnderworld2
2016Nylon Strung (M.A.N.D.Y. Remix)Underworld1
2016Nylon Strung (Eagles & Butterflies Remix)Underworld1
2017Long Slow Slippy / Eventually ButUnderworld1
2017Slow SlippyUnderworld1
2018Brilliant Yes That Would BeUnderworld1
2018World of Underworld in Electronic SoundUnderworld1
2018Bells & CirclesUnderworld & Iggy Pop1
2018I’ll See BigUnderworld & Iggy Pop1
2018Get Your ShirtUnderworld & Iggy Pop1
2018Another Silent Way (Film edit)Underworld1
2019Small Conker and a TwixUnderworld1
2019Appleshine (Film edit)Underworld1
2019MolehillUnderworld1
2019Threat of RainUnderworld1
2019BrusselsUnderworld1
2019SoniamodeUnderworld2
2019Twist (Music Bank Jam take 7)Underworld1
2019DuneUnderworld1
2019Custard Speed TalkUnderworld1
2019This Must Be Drum StreetUnderworld1
2019PinetumUnderworld1
2019Poet CatUnderworld1

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