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Underworld

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Date of death : -
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Nationality : English
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2012-03-30

Underworld are an English electronic group, and principal name under which duo Karl Hyde and Rick Smith have recorded together since 1980.

Hyde and Smith began their musical partnership with the Kraftwerk and reggae-inspired sounds of The Screen Gemz while working together in a diner in the city of Cardiff, where both had been studying. They were then joined by bass player Alfie Thomas, drummer Bryn Burrows, and keyboardist John Warwicker and formed a proto-electroclash/new romantic band whose name was a graphic squiggle, which was subsequently given the pronunciation Freur. The band signed to CBS Records, and went on to release the albums Doot-Doot in 1983, and Get Us out of Here in 1986. The band disbanded in 1986.

In 1987 Hyde, Smith, Thomas, Burrows and bass player Baz Allen formed the band Underworld which tried a more guitar-oriented funky electropop sound. The band signed to Sire Records and released the album Underneath the Radar in 1988, and following the departure of Burrows the album Change the Weather in 1989. This version of the band disbanded in 1990. (The Underworld of this period is now often referred to as "Underworld Mk1".)

After a break (to concentrate on, among other things, art/design project Tomato), Hyde and Smith recruited Essex DJ Darren Emerson, and after several minor releases and remixes as Lemon Interupt and Steppin' Razor readopted the Underworld moniker. They produced danceable techno as a trio ("Underworld Mk2").

The addition of Emerson completed Underworld's techno/rock fusion and seemed to moderate some of the poppier elements in the original duo's work. Their first album, dubnobasswithmyheadman, was considered more accessible than the group's earlier material and crossed a large spectrum of dance music. The signature Hyde lyrics were in place: poetic, hypnotic and whispered; mixing conventional songwriting with the use of found material from overheard conversations, answering machine recordings and the like. Hyde had been the lead singer in Underworld Mk1. But the original Hyde/Smith dance material was lyric-free as was most of the electronic music emerging from the aftermath of acid house.

The band's 1996 album, Second Toughest In The Infants, was their second studio album with Emerson and achieved a degree of commercial success, due in part to its release coinciding with that of the film Trainspotting. The film featured "Dark & Long (Dark Train)", as well as the band's most commercially successful track to date, "Born Slippy NUXX", which was originally released only as a B-side of a single and does not appear on the Second Toughest album. Both the single and the album showed Underworld maturing as a trio, mixing elements of techno, house, drum and bass and pop music to spectacular effect. "Born Slippy .NUXX" is one of Underworld's best-known tracks, and is celebrated as one of the greatest dance tracks of the decade. It was originally released in 1995 as a b-side to "Born Slippy", but failed to catch on until it was included in Trainspotting. The track has since sold over a million copies, and appeared on countless compilations, mashups, and remixes.

After the release of fifth studio album Beaucoup Fish in 1999, Hyde declared in his interviews that he had sorted out earlier problems with alcoholism but all the members admitted that the sessions had been fraught with problems, with the individual members working in their own studios and only communicating via mixes of the raw material passed back and forth on DAT. After the release of the album a large number of mixes of the album tracks seemed to surface on singles, magazine promotional CDs and similar ephemeral formats perhaps indicating the number of revisions the tracks had gone through to get to the point where they were acceptable to all three. The album's name derives from a sample of a Cajun fisherman in Louisiana on the track "Jumbo". The band originally wanted to call the album Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be Underworld (a catchphrase used by contestants on the UK ITV programme Stars in Their Eyes), but were persuaded by their record company, Junior Boy's Own, that the name would not be easily understood outside the UK. Finally, after all the singles had been released, a boxset, Beaucoup Fish Singles, which was a retrospective of all 4 singles came out.

After the release and promotion of Everything, Everything, Emerson decided to leave Underworld to focus on his solo projects and record label. Hyde and Smith decided to continue, once again, as a duo. They recorded a new album, A Hundred Days Off, released to general approval. Despite its status as the band's first studio album since Emerson's departure, its general sound and feel was, perhaps surprisingly for many Underworld fans, not completely dissimilar to the previous albums on which Emerson had had input.

A 2 disc anthology was released in 2003, called 1992-2002, which covered the previous Underworld MK2 to Underworld MK3 era. This was the first appearance on an album of previously unavailable single tracks and B-Sides, such as "Bigmouth", "Spikee", "Dirty", and "8 Ball".In late 2005 they released two compilations of new songs with accompanying photographs on Underworld Live, Lovely Broken Thing and Pizza for Eggs. These were only released online, with no physical release (except for a promo CD). On 5 June 2006, they released their third instalment in the Riverrun series, I'm a Big Sister, and I'm a Girl, and I'm a Princess, and This Is My Horse.

Underworld's seventh studio album, Oblivion with Bells, was released on 16 October 2007. The first single from the new album, "Crocodile", was released on 5 September 2007. U2's drummer Larry Mullen Jr helped out on the track Boy, Boy, Boy.

Underworld completed the soundtrack to the Danny Boyle film, Sunshine, in late 2006. Well over a year after the film's release, the official soundtrack was released on iTunes on 25 November 2008. The soundtrack is a collaboration with composer John Murphy.

In November 2011 Underworld announced the release of two new albums, A Collection and 1992-2012 Anthology. A Collection features many of the bands biggest tracks alongside recent collaborations with High Contrast featuring Tiesto & Underworld (The first note is silent), Mark Knight & D Ramirez (Downpipe) and Brian Eno (Beebop Hurry) 1992-2012 Anthology is a 3 disk set and is a refreshed and revisited version of the 1992-2002 Anthology including more material, unreleased tracks and rarities to go some way to completing the picture of the first two decades of Underworld.

In December 2011 Underworld were chosen to direct the music for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games, reprising their partnership with film-maker and ceremony director Danny Boyle.

Discography:
Underneath the Radar (1988)
Change the Weather (1989)
Dubnobasswithmyheadman (1994)
Second Toughest in the Infants (1996)
Beaucoup Fish (1999)
A Hundred Days Off (2002)
Oblivion with Bells (2007)
Barking (2010)


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