Electronic-music trio Underworld has been going at the music game for a long, long time — since the early 80's, under various names. Their big commercial breakthrough was some 15 years ago when their music was featured in Trainspotting
. However, 30-odd years after founding members Karl Hyde and Rick Smith first began collaborating, they are still going strong and sounding fresh on their latest release, Barking
covers a fair amount of musical ground, incorporating influences from electropop, trance, house, and drum'n'bass to name just a few. These influences are by and large alchemized into a cohesive musical statement rich with reverby guitars, processed vocals, anthemic trance melodies, heavy synth basslines, and powerful electronic drumbeats. The tracks are long — generally about 6 minutes apiece — and are usually musical rollercoaster rides in and of themselves, with tense buildups and epic drops and breakouts.
The group enlisted several current DJs and producers for production help on the album, with drum'n'bass producer High Contrast contributing on "Scribble" and "Moon in the Water," house heads Mark Knight and D. Ramirez on "Always Loved a Film" and "Between Stars," techno producer Dubfire on "Bird 1" and "Grace," and trance titan Paul van Dyk on "Diamond Jigsaw." Their help gives this album a current, hip feel — "Diamond Jigsaw" (despite being produced by guys who came up in the mid-90's) and "Moon in the Water" could just as easily be a breakout track from the next hot electropop group; "Always Loved a Film" is an excellent progressive house-style tune, and "Scribble" is powered by some seriously awesome drum'n'bass breaks.
If there's one weak moment on the album, its the final track "Louisiana", but it isn't enough to ruin the party. The rest of the varying moods and speeds are well-executed — from the high energy of "Scribble" and "Film" to the spacey, zoned-out "Hamburg Hotel", and even the trippy "Moon in the Water". One bad track out of nine is hardly a killer.
Fifteen years after their rise to fame and thirty after their inception, Underworld has made an album that's true to their sound but relevant in the modern electronic music world, and one that covers a lot of musical ground ably and without any of the tracks sounding contrived. This is an impressive achievement and one well worth a listen and a purchase to any electronic-music fan.
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Underworld Official Site