Underworld (UK electronic music group)

~ Group



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 .


Underworld are a Welsh electronic music group formed in 1980 in the Welsh capital, Cardiff, and the principal name of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith recording together. Prominent former members include Darren Emerson, from 1991–1999, and Darren Price, as part of the live band from 2005–2016.

After initial incarnation as a funk and synth-pop band, resulting in two albums between 1988–1989, Underworld gained prominence, after reshaping in 1993, into the progressive house and techno act, and releasing seven subsequent albums, including critically acclaimed dubnobasswithmyheadman (1994), Second Toughest in the Infants (1996), and the signature 1996 single "Born Slippy .NUXX". Known for visual style and dynamic live performances, Underworld have influenced a wide range of artists and been featured in soundtracks and scores for films, television, and the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1996 Cloud 9 Various Artists 1
2002 Radioactivity Volume 02-10 Various Artists 1
2004 All That Chill Various Artists 1
2007 Damaging Consent The Micronauts 2
2008 The No. 1 Club Hits Various Artists 1
2008 Winter Music Conference 2008 Various Artists 1
2009 Idiosyncrasies Kris Menace 2
2012 The Agony & The Ecstasy High Contrast 2

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1988 '88 Kix On Various Artists 1
1989 Just Say Yes, Volume III: Just Say Mao Various Artists 1
1993 Volume Eight Various Artists 1
1993 Serious Beats 11 Various Artists 2
1993 Razormaid!: Level 1 Various Artists 1
1993 XL Recordings: The Fourth Chapter Various Artists 2
1994 Café del Mar: Ibiza Various Artists 2 4
1994 Logic Trance 2 Various Artists 5
1994 Ibiza Afterhours Various Artists 1
1994 Afterburn: Wax Trax! Records '94 and Beyond Various Artists 1
1994 AP: Storm the Planet Various Artists 1
1994 Cyberspace Level 2 Various Artists 1
1994 Junior Boy's Own Collection Various Artists 1
1994 Plugged! Various Artists 1
1994 Ravemachine Various Artists 1
1994 Techno Rave Party 3 Various Artists 1
1994 Trance Sylvania 4 Various Artists 1
1995 Trance Europe Express 4 Various Artists 1
1995 Dream Injection, Volume 1 Various Artists 1
1995 Pure Trance, Volume 4 Various Artists 1
1995 Dubnology: Journeys Into Outer Bass Various Artists 1
1995 Flux Trax Various Artists 1
1995 House Party ’95, 3: The Cosmic Clubmixx Various Artists 1
1995 huH, Volume 5 Various Artists 2
1995 NME: Singles of the Week 1994 Various Artists 1
1995 Rave Maus Various Artists 1
1995 The Cream of Ambient Visions One Various Artists 1
1995 Trancemaster 10: Natural Energizer Various Artists 1
1995 Trancemaster X - Natural Energizer Various Artists 1
1995 Tribal Gathering '95 Various Artists 1
1995 Wasted: The Best of Volume, Part 1 Various Artists 1
1996 CMJ New Music Monthly, Volume 32: April 1996 Various Artists 1
1996 Technohedz Various Artists 1
1996 The Best… Album in the World… Ever! (Oasis, Prodigy, Pulp) Various Artists 1
1996 Fresh Hits 96 Various Artists 1
1996 Untitled 2 Various Artists 1
1996 Maxi Dance XXL: The Long Versions, Volume 2 Various Artists 1
1996 Now That’s What I Call Music! 34 (UK) Various Artists 3.5 1
1996 100% Drum & Bass Various Artists 1
1996 Evening Session Priority Tunes Various Artists 1
1996 100% Dance Hits 96 Various Artists 1
1996 Mad for It Various Artists 1
1996 E-Beat: Phase Two Various Artists 1
1996 The Braun MTV Eurochart '96, Volume 9 Various Artists 1
1996 Dubnology 2: Lost in Bass Various Artists 1
1996 Huge Hits 1996 Various Artists 1
1996 Bleeping with the NME Various Artists 1
1996 Indie Top 20, Volume 23 Various Artists 1
1996 MTV Fresh 2 Various Artists 2
1996 The Best of Dance 96 Various Artists 1
1996 The Best… Album in the World… Ever! (Oasis, Chemical Brothers, Ash) Various Artists 1
1996 Ultra Techno, Volume 2 Various Artists 1
1996 Now That’s What I Call Music! 35 (UK) Various Artists 3.5 3
1996 The Dog’s …! Various Artists 1
1996 Hits Zone ’97 Various Artists 1
1996 Dance Tip 2000 Various Artists 1
1996 100% ISIS 2 100% Isis 1
1996 Ad Astra: A Tribute to Perry Rhodan Various Artists 1
1996 Altered States: Distorted Dance & Remix Rock Various Artists 1
1996 Definitivt BEAT, Nummer 3•96 Various Artists 1
1996 Film Hits: Up to Date Various Artists 1
1996 Future Funk Various Artists 2
1996 Hit Explosion 1996, Volume 9 Various Artists 1
1996 Hit Machine 15 Various Artists 1
1996 Iced Up: The Stoned Cold Chillout Session Various Artists 1
1996 Keinijg 2 Various Artists 1
1996 Kiss Mix 96 Various Artists 1
1996 Krankenhouse Various Artists 1
1996 La Creme de La Creme: The Cream of Underground House Music a Retrospective Mix Various Artists 1
1996 Mercury Music Prize: Albums of the Year 1996 Various Artists 1
1996 Monster Hits, Volume 9 Various Artists 1
1996 Techno Story Various Artists 1
1996 Techno Travel Act.3 Various Artists 1
1996 The Best Dance Album in the World… Ever! Part 6 Various Artists 1
1996 The Greatest Hits of 96 Various Artists 1
1996 This Is... Techno Various Artists 1
1996 TOTP: The Cutting Edge Various Artists 1
1996 TVT Fall Sampler Various Artists 1
1996 Untitled 3 Various Artists 1
1997 Club Sounds: The Ultimate Club Dance Collection, Vol. 1 Various Artists 1
1997 Foundations: Coming Up From the Streets Various Artists 1
1997 The History of Trance, Part 2 Various Artists 1
1997 RaveBase: Raver's Paradise, Phase 8 Various Artists 1
1997 Trackspotting Various Artists 1
1997 Plastic Compilation, Volume 1 Various Artists 1
1997 The Best... In the World... Ever! Volume 5 Various Artists 1
1997 Kiss Anthems Various Artists 1
1997 Moonraker, Volume 3 Various Artists 1
1997 Electronica: Full-On Big Beats Various Artists 1
1997 MTV’s Amp Various Artists 1
1997 Fused Various Artists 1
1997 Ciné FUN Various Artists 4 1

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