Monday’s Long Song

On 1st November 2018 Underworld decided to launch a year long project called Drift. They would create and publish music and film for a year, putting the results online every Thursday. fifty two episodes with no clear plan or destination, just the freedom of ‘let’s see what happens’ with the self imposed deadline to do it regularly and often. A bit like how I see blogging. Rick and Karl have just made the whole thing available digitally, a seven CD box set, a seventeen track Blu- Ray with the pick of the films and an eleven song sampler/best of. This one, Tree And Two Chairs, came out back in August, a thirteen minute glide with jazzy keyboards and a saxophone swirling around over a very Underworld rhythm, a sense of space and of floating.

Monday’s Long Song

Dark And Long is the still superb sounding dub-techno entry point to Underworld’s dubnobasswithmyheadman album. The 1994 single version of Dark And Long, across various formats, gave us a whole load of different versions including this one from the cd single- 215 Miles, a twenty minute excursion into synth pads and pulsing rhythms. Clear your diary and enjoy the ride.

215 Miles (Dark And Long)

Smoking On The Airplane

Iggy Pop and Underworld- I was unsure until I heard it. My initial reaction on reading about it was that the guest Iggy Pop vocal has become a cliche, his instantly recognisable voice a short cut to rock ‘n’ roll for others, some vicarious Stooginess. But this collaboration, a four track e.p. between Iggy and Underworld called Teatime Dub Encounters is great, recorded on the hoof in a hotel room between other projects. In this track, Bells And Circles, Iggy describes taking a gram of coke on an airplane in the 1970s while flying to New York, the loss of the stewardess’s phone number and resulting effects of the consumption, the loss of being able to smoke on aircraft and the state of liberal democracy. Rick Smith’s beats and techno rushes are as good as any he’s put together this decade and when Karl Hyde’s backing vocals come in it becomes extra exhilarating.

Nova, Nebulae, Aurora

Let’s start the week with something very long, hypnotic and uplifting. In 1992 this single by Lemon Interrupt (aka Underworld) came out on Junior Boys Own, Big Mouth on one side and Eclipse on the other. Eclipse is the pick of the two for me- thirteen minutes starting out with chugging beats, sweeping strings and a voice intoning ‘nova, nebulae, aurora’. As it unfolds the Underworld keyboard sound starts to phase in and it becomes progressively more acid, and progressively more absorbing. A bit like shooting through the Channel Tunnel but between planets. Thirteen minutes well spent.

Eclipse

Flow Like A River Of Bass Vibration

The Irwell again, above, photographed from the same bridge as yesterday but facing south rather than north.

River Of Bass is the opener to Side D of dubnobasswithmyheadman (or track 8 on cd), possibly the best album of the 1990s. River Of Bass glides into being, all fluid and loose with Karl’s vocals half whispered/half sung over the top, their most ambient track. Sub bass that entrances and mesmerises. Calming and reflective.

River Of Bass

Various Artists

These Various Artists compilations have so far all come from a similar time frame and this one is right in there, the Junior Boys Own Collection from 1994, a round up of singles released on JBO between 1991 and 1994. Heller and Farley appear twice in their Fire Island guise (Fire Island, off Long Island , New York is and was legendary for its gay scene and clubs) and also as Roach Motel. Underworld contribute three songs under two names (Lemon Interrupt and Underworld) and pre-Chemicals Ed and Tom showcase the monstrous Song To the Siren and X-Press 2 are represented by two pieces of essential early 90s house.

This compilation is pretty ubiquitous in 1994, a good round up of a label with its finger near the pulse. All these tracks could be heard in Manchester’s clubs- not always the same club but somewhere between the Hacienda, Home, the gay village and various other darkened rooms these tunes would never be far away. There But For The Grace Of God is Fire Island’s disco house, a 1979 disco-funk classic from machine updated by Farley and Heller, camp as fluffy bras, crop tops and silver trousers.

There But For The Grace Of God

Rez is one of the greatest records of that period. Or any period. Beyond sheer brilliance, it is in some ways a full stop. The ever circling squiggles, the hi-hats and snare, the rush of the chords, all seem to say ‘where else can you go after this?’

Rez

Vine Leaf

This post follows on (coincidentally) from Drew’s on Friday where he posted a different mix of the same song. William Orbit’s Water From A Vine Leaf is a long progressive house tune from 1993 with a Beth Orton vocal. Over twenty years on it sounds good to these ears, still has a freshness about it. This remix is even better than the original mix though I think. In 1993 Underworld were on top of their game, Emerson, Hyde and Smith capable of turning out ten minute remixes that reshaped the source matter and drove it onwards. This one adds a certain moodiness to Orbit’s original version, perfect for the dancefloor and the headphones. Underworld really should compile their best remixes- they had so many from this time.

Water From A Vine Leaf (Underwater Mix Part 1)