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 .


Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1999 Humo's Alle 99 Goed Various Artists 1
1999 Kiss Clublife Various Artists 1
1999 Kiss House Nation Various Artists 1
1999 Kiss Ibiza 99 Various Artists 1
1999 Music Is the Key: Love Parade: The '99 Compilation Various Artists 3
1999 Muzik: 1999 the Tunes Various Artists 1
1999 Muzik: Club Classics Various Artists 1
1999 Remix Magazine DJ Mix Various Artists 1
1999 Resident: Two Years of Oakenfold at Cream Paul Oakenfold 1
1999 Siglo 21 2.0 Various Artists 1
1999 Simply the Best 80s Hits Various Artists 1
1999 The Chillout Room 2 Various Artists 1
1999 The Greatest Hits of the 90s: The Story of the Decade Various Artists 1
1999 This Is... Chill Out Various Artists 1
1999 This Is... Ibiza 2000 Various Artists 1
1999 This Year in Ibiza Various Artists 1
1999 Ultra Techno, Volume 8 Various Artists 1
1999 Urbal Beats III: The Definitive Guide to Electronic Music Various Artists 1
1999 Y2K: Beat the Clock Various Artists 1
2000 Ministry Presents: Class of '99: The Ministry Award Winners Various Artists 1
2000 Best of Electronic Music, Volume 2 Various Artists 1
2000 Digital Empire, Volume 3: Phuturism Various Artists 1
2000 Machine Soul: An Odyssey Into Electronic Dance Music Various Artists 1
2000 Indie 2000, Volume 5 Various Artists 1
2000 Essential Selection Spring 2000 Pete Tong 1
2000 Club Rotation, Volume 10 Various Artists 1
2000 Generation Techno: The Classix 1990-2000 Various Artists 1
2000 Dance Train Classics Platform 1 Various Artists 1
2000 This Is... Ibiza Summer 2000 Various Artists 1
2000 Kiss Ibiza 2000 Various Artists 1
2000 Q: Essential Chill Out Various Artists 1
2000 Crossing All Over! Volume 12 Various Artists 1
2000 Revolutions 01 Various Artists 1
2000 Select: Revolutions 01 Various Artists 1
2000 Music of the Millennium 2 Various Artists 1
2000 De Afrekening, Volume 23 Various Artists 1
2000 Lords of the Boards 2001 Various Artists 1
2000 Ericsson Muzik Awards 2000: The Exclusive Mix Various Artists 1
2000 04:00 am Eternal Various Artists 1
2000 10 Years Of Trance Various Artists 1
2000 Academy 15th Anniversary Various Artists 1
2000 Big World Of Big Beat Fatboy Slim 1
2000 Booom! The Number 1 Dance Album, Volume 3 Various Artists 1
2000 Café del Mar: Dreams Various Artists 2 2
2000 Campingflight to Lowlands Paradise 2000 Various Artists 1
2000 Chillout Experience Various Artists 1
2000 Earth Dance 2000: The Global Dance Party for Peace Various Artists 1
2000 Eclectic Electric Various Artists 1
2000 Electro Guide 5 Various Artists 1
2000 home Steve Lawler 1
2000 Mega Techno 3 Various Artists 1
2000 Music at... Moonlight Various Artists 1
2000 Muzik 5th Birthday Mix CD Carl Cox 1
2000 People Get Ready Various Artists 1
2000 Shine! Issue No. 1 Various Artists 1
2000 Subsonic: Electronica and Beyond Various Artists 1
2000 Techno: A New Dimension Various Artists 1
2000 The Sound of Trance 2000 Various Artists 1
2000 Tinsel Town Various Artists 1
2000 Ultra Techno Millenium Various Artists 1
2001 Essential Chillout: Six-Pack Various Artists 1
2001 Clubbed Out, Volume 1 Various Artists 1
2001 Essential Tracks Various Artists 1
2001 Q: Essential Dance Various Artists 1
2001 The Best Ever Chillout Mix Various Artists 1
2001 Ibiza Summer Anthems Various Artists 1
2001 Musikexpress 56: V2 Various Artists 1
2001 Clubbed Out, Volume 2 Various Artists 1
2001 I ♥ 90s Various Artists 1
2001 Back to the Old Skool Various Artists 4
2001 Chillout Forever Various Artists 1
2001 Mixmag Presents: Big Tunes Various Artists 1
2001 DJ Convention: Code Eleven Various Artists 1
2001 Soundtrack 1: The Definitive Xbox Compilation Various Artists 1
2001 The Best Various Artists 1
2001 Chill Out Mix 2 Various Artists 1
2001 Classic Cuts Presents: 90’s Night: The Definitive DJ Collection: 1996 Various Artists 1
2001 I Love 90s Various Artists 1
2001 Ibiza Lounge Various Artists 1
2001 Mastermix Classic Cuts: 90s Night Various Artists 1
2001 Music for the Fast Lane Various Artists 1
2001 Real Retro Electronic Beats Classix Various Artists 1
2001 Tijdloze Honderd, Volume 5 Various Artists 1
2002 Big Day Out 2002: Discrespective Various Artists 1
2002 Essenchill Nitin Sawhney 1
2002 The Late Lounge Various Artists 1
2002 Ambient Lounge 3 Various Artists 1
2002 Empire 2002⁺ The Hottest Soundtracks… Now! Various Artists 1
2002 Tracks From the Best Dance Albums of All Time Various Artists 1
2002 Screen Cuts Various Artists 1
2002 ID&T Classics Various Artists 1
2002 Chilloutmix 3 Various Artists 1
2002 CreamCollect: Balearic Various Artists 1
2002 Cigarettes and Alcohol: Saturday Night, Sunday Morning Various Artists 1
2002 Cream Collect Techno Various Artists 1
2002 Ibiza Classics Various Artists 1
2002 Karma Lounge 2 Various Artists 1
2002 SonneMondSterne 2002 Various Artists 1
2002 Sorted! 40 Madchester Baggy Anthems Various Artists 1
2002 Trax, Volume 55 Various Artists 1

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