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When UNDERWORLD released their last album, A Hundred Days Off (2002), no one thought it would be nearly 2000 days until the next one arrived. It hasn't been a case of lazing around in the Essex countryside, though. The last five years have thrown up a 1992-2002 anthology album, two major film scores (Anthony Minghella's Breaking and Entering and Danny Boyle's Sunshine), a self-published typographic journal In The Belly of Saint Paul, a series of pioneering digital-only releases, internet-radio broadcasts, a groundbreaking live web-TV broadcast and gig in partnership with techno-giants Apple and Frankfurt's Cocoon, and countless gigs around the world.
During all of this action, Underworld (also known as Rick Smith and Karl Hyde), with the aid of their trusty laptops, a couple of home studios, Abbey Road's legendary facilities, and a pig shed, have been carefully developing ideas for the new album Oblivion with Bells (2007), which was finally completed in a flurry of activity and excitement this past spring.
True to form, Underworld treads their own path through modern electronic music, tipping a nod to current sounds, styles, and production techniques, but never afraid to let their songwriting and musicianship shine out in this digital world.
Oblivion with Bells draws heavily on Smith and Hyde's vast array of musical influences (Nick Drake, Def Mix, Ricardo Villalobos, Can, James Holden, Eno) and experiences performing worldwide to create a truly unique Underworld journey. The album kicks off like a Saturday night with Sven Väth, Simian Mobile Disco, and Frankie Knuckles all fighting to get on the decks, then takes the listener over the flat fields of rural Essex, through King's Cross, with its olympic dreams, ending in a hidden cove in Ibiza. Epic techno nestles next to frail acoustics, beatific prose next to sharp urban observation, amazing sound texturing mixed with mobile phone recordings. Rarely has the Underworld palette been so rich.
This summer has seen Underworld playing a handful of European festival dates (where new material was debuted alongside deep grooves and some classics from the Underworld jukebox) ahead of their U.S. tour, which kicks off at the Hollywood Bowl.