Artist: Underworld
Title: A Hundred Days Off
Label: Junior Records
By: Alan Teo | 3 September 2002
  1. No Move
  2. Two Months Off
  3. Twist
  4. Sola Sistim
  5. Little Speaker
  6. Trim
  7. Ess Gee
  8. Dinosaur Adventure 3D
  9. Ballet Lane
  10. Luetin

Underworld "A Hundred Days Off"

Out Now on Junior Records

Underworld (Rick Smith + Karl Hyde) have long been regarded by many as one of the early pioneers of the techno scene in UK back in the 90's. Few dance acts could rival their longevity in the circuit for one factor - their inimitable style of driving techno, tastily fused with slabs of elemental rock and pop. Anyone who have been catching on would be very familiar with their style of incorporating live instrumentation into their productions. After nearly 2 decades later, a spur of inspiration immediately led to the birth of their spectacular 'Everything, Everything' live LP, a project which helped root an important milestone for Underworld - an act that has truly come of age and still mutating today. And though inflicted by changes throughout the years, the latest including a member split that could only spell trouble in this highly volatile industry, steam hasn't run out for the now dynamic duo. For this adventurous partnership still remained very much a household name in the scene, bridging the gap between the underground and the mainstream without selling out. Undoubtly, judging by the sounds of this forthcoming long player, a continual showcase ever since the departure of DJ Darren Emerson, we can see why they're still havin' it.

01 - No Move

"I dreamed...that I'm, chemical..."

"I...become, chemical..."

Reputed for having one of the most bizarre lyrics and track titles around, its perhaps a revelation into Karl Hyde's inner world that is largely attributed by his flair for nonsensical verses. His vocal delivery, a quality so distinct yet never pronounced nor intrusive, consistently exhibits the uncanny blend of sound between man and machine. This opener is thus no exception. A simple old skool-ish key intro sets pace for the signature dubby lows and squelching guitar riff. All to be later coupled by a plucky string sample that could easily qualify for filmic chowder to a modern soundtrack, akin to what 'Born Slippy' was for 1996's Brit-flick: Trainspotting.

02 - Two Months Off

Robotic beats marries off a surrealistic backdrop. A majestic synth hook then awaits at the background, gradually taking the limelight with its raw power. Forging along with relentless washes of filtered vocals that, surprisingly, sounds more melodic than it should be when pieced together with the rest of the elements.

03 - Twist

Underworld's distinctive brand of broodiness takes off as the duo creates yet another familiar sullen loop with their keys. This tune has a somewhat loungey jazz feel with its combination of subtle guitar licks, bright maracas and opened hi-hats - tuning the listener's senses with "build-up and strip-down" precision.

04 - Sola Sistim

More moodswings continue with 'Sola Sistim.' An analogue snare + bass drum workout with Hyde's drugged out voice slipping in and out of the works. This lethargic sounding number creates its own rich and soothing ambience with a mellow backdrop that drifts behind the dawdling percussions in monotonous harmony. Perfect chillout to kick your shoes off and watch the crawling night cityscape below.

05 - Little Speaker

One of the more aurally exciting productions in the album, the track starts off with a warping bassline simply twisting itself around a funky piano sequence. A female speech, aptly teased on top to counter the monotony. It then builds on to a point whereby another piano sequence is introduced along with some sweet synthesizers, dropping the bassline and key sequence that was domineering throughout the first half. Towards the concluding bits, every element is brought back together to create this mashed up labyrinth of soaring melody that only Underworld does best.

06 - Trim

A time-travel back to the days of the hugely successful 'Dubnobasswithmyheadman,' which shortly earmarked into a major turning point for the band. Laidback banjo and Hyde's apathetic drivel once again cleverly used as a guiding melody for the track. Utilizing a chuggy bassline thats very subdued, very low slung. Plain "melody-chanics," nothing more nothing less.

07 - Ess Gee

Off on a different experiment, a 3 minute interlude of bluesy electric guitar. For once, unraveling the vunerable side of the Essex boys as they abandon their usual front to thread into unknown territory. Not your regular Underworld but nonetheless, a beautifully poignant affair.

08 - Dinosaur Adventure 3D

The tempo wastes no time to veer off again in 'Dinosaur Adventure 3D.' A ferocious bassline quickly morphs into a raging groove as layers upon layers of driving percussion spark off one after another to create a massive array of thunderous frenzy. Hyde's infuriating wails aggressively gnashes the listener in this heart-stopping rollercoaster ride into classic Underworld.

09 - Ballet Lane

Guitars of all sorts tinkle everywhere in this calm track, modestly backed by dubby pads and keys. Nice touch of programming for this texturally dreamy track. Something for a drive through winding forest roads.

10 - Luetin

Filthy electro lines steadily riding atop steely percussions and tinges of twisted synths. The high notes seemed to soar infinitely above this angst-ridden of a finale, drawing to a close of yet another much-vaunted album.

Be it the minimally moody numbers or beautifully crafted frenzies, 'A Hundred Days Off' have shown a much refined depth and approach to their material, a sign that heralds a renewed direction towards their influential tapestry of electronica. Not to mention their trademark penchant for lengthy cresendos, something that has always been a unique part of Underworld's rhythmic designs. This latest offering might not have necessarily broken any major ground, but it certainly has been a musical leap forward for the duo - summing up the experience as a whole new rediscovery of their already polished sonic arsenal.

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