Underworld Oblivion With Bells Review

Released 2007.  

BBC Review

This fantastic album is easily among the best released this year.

Lou Thomas 2007

Whatever else Essex has contributed to popular culture, Underworld are hard to fault.

The often maligned county that borders East London was referenced in their biggest hit ("Born Slippy"), but this aside, listeners may assume the band were conceived, born and raised in the centre of the city.

Now on their fifth studio recording a full 15 years since their first single and 27 years since their inception, Underworld have always made dense, tough, dark, dirty techno that throbs, loops and evolves like all the world's best cities do.

It is unsurprising then, that this fantastic album is easily among the best released this year.

What is a surprise, albeit only a slight one, is that despite the complexity and depth of this record, there are no instant anthems.

This is a surprise from a band whose "King Of Snake", "Cowgirl", and many more absolutely devastated global dancefloors. Yet the diversion into less banging territory was obvious to those who saw the signs, or specifically, for those who saw Sunshine. Karl Hyde and Rick Smith scored the beguiling, exciting and thoughtful Danny Boyle movie in fitting, but hit-free fashion.

But Oblivion With Bells is a progression from their soundtrack work.

What astonishes is the incredible layering of melodies. Just when an utterly instinctive, hypnotising riff has gnawed into your brain during the likes of "Faxed Invitation" or album standout "Glam Bucket", another twinkling synth leaps in and plays simultaneously. It sounds like robot fornication and techno lovers may be reminded of DJ Rolando’s classic, "Jaguar". Musicians who really care about messing with sonic barriers from Boards Of Canada to My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields will be listening carefully.

Karl Hyde's stream of consciousness observations of corruption and paranoia are still present. They’re still influenced by Lou Reed and still churn up vivid and disorientating images. On "Ring Road", he passes people 'praying for rain but the next minute a scorched earth', while on "Holding A Moth", he chats about a 'glass eye that loves to be touched'. It's been a long time since vicarious voyeurism felt so right.

Underworld have made an album that is minimal, progressive, techno, deep, ambient, uplifting and soulful. It challenges, tempts, confuses and inspires each time you go near it. How could anyone not love something that has such an effect?

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