UNDERWORLD - LISTEN TO THEIR NO
Underworld announce the end of their ambitious year-long Drift cycle with "Listen To Their No." It's a breath of fresh air.
Electronic music mutates faster than nearly any genre out there, apart from maybe Pop Music. What makes us boogie, shimmy, and sweat last year will elicit tears of boredom in less than 12 months. Maybe it's due to the adrenaline rush that dance music is so often meant to produce, or perhaps it's the alien nature of the materials from which it's made, but electronic music fanatics have a particularly high demand for novelty and innovation.
This is part of what makes Underworld's longevity so striking. Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have managed to stay in the heads and hearts of ravers and club kids for over 30 years, amazingly enough. Crawling out of the late '80s, Underworld managed to translate the euphoria and excitement of early rave, Madchester and Acid Techno, through the downtempo moodiness of the '90s, and into the kaleidoscopic postmodern proliferation of the 2000s and 2010s.
Staying together as a band for over 30 years is a major accomplishment. Remaining relevant is nearly impossible. Creating consistently inspiring singles and albums is practically a miracle. The fact that a number of Underworld's discography entries are legitimately important and influential is nearly as unlikely as The Big Bang happening twice.
Underworld's long-standing success and influence possibly has something to do with the fact that they're always pushing themselves, always trying new things. They've worked in every format you could imagine, from soundtracks to multimedia productions. They've scored a play of Frankenstein. They've released 7"s. They've collaborated with Madonna.
For the last year, Underworld's been working in a long-form format with their Drift series. For the last 52 weeks, they've been releasing a series of singles, music videos, interviews, film, and text. Drift is finally reaching its conclusion with an imminent album Drift Songs. "Listen To Their No" is one of the preliminary teasers to tantalize our taste buds (as if the last 52 weeks weren't enough.)
UNDERWORLD - LISTEN TO THEIR NO
One might wonder, how can a band turn out quality work every single week? Isn't that excessive? And, considering how much Underworld we've had in the last year, is "Listen To Their No" essential? The answer is a resounding YES!
If you spend any time hunting down quality electronic music, you'll know that the best stuff often doesn't come off of albums. Singles, playlists, DJ sets, this is where the magic happens, where the true innovation occurs. You can think of "Listen To Their No" as an advance white label dubplate. The sound itself backs up that claim.
"Listen To Their No" is built around a simple, fantastic synth arpeggio, seemingly sourced from an analog/modular synth which rides like a glitter sandstorm over a stripped down 4/4 club kick. Karl Hyde's vocals sound particularly uplifting and euphoric, sounding like a throwback to early '90s Trance like the classic Robert Miles' "Children," but less cheesy, more earnest.
All in all, "Listen To Their No" sounds immediate and off-the-cuff but then polished to perfection. It's the sound of a satisfying jam session, captured in glowing high fidelity and then lovingly presented to a legion of adoring fans. This offers us an opportunity to appreciate Underworld, again, through 2019's ears.
Underworld have always been immediate, in-the-moment. They predicted the hardware/synthpop resurgence by about 10 years yet never seem to get the props they deserve as major progenitors of either style. They've blended the rawness and experimentation of true underground dance music with exquisite production standards and a keen Pop sensibility that has probably put more bodies on to dancefloors than Adidas.
It's a little nuts how Underworld keep creating essential, world-class progressive electronica for decade after decade. It's a true, true treasure to still have them with us. Let "Listen To Their No" and Drift Songs serve as a reminder to appreciate what we have!
We Are: The Guard couldn't be more thankful to still have Underworld with us. Here's to another 30 years!
J. Simpson occupies the intersection between criticism, creativity, and academia. Based out of Portland, Or., he is the author of Forestpunk, an online journal/brand studying the traces of horror, supernatural, and the occult through music, fashion and culture. He plays in the dreamfolk band Meta-Pinnacle with his partner Lily H. Valentine, with whom he also co-founded Bitstar Productions, a visual arts collective focused on elevating Pop Culture to High Art.