Underworld Takes 'Off'

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Three years after Underworld seduced the world with the Generation X-defining hit "Born Slippy" (immortalized in the film "Trainspotting"), the U.K. outfit returned full-throttle with 1999's "Beaucoup Fish." An exhaustive yearlong tour followed, and in 2000, Underworld released "Everything Everything," a live CD/DVD that documented the seminal innovators' illustrious 10-year career.

In late 1999, though, longstanding core member/international DJ Darren Emerson announced his sudden departure to pursue a solo career, leaving remaining members Karl Hyde and Rick Smith to face the daunting challenge of mapping out their questionable future.

On Sept. 24 (one day earlier overseas), Underworld re-emerges as a rejuvenated duo with its fourth studio effort, the supple and triumphant "A Hundred Days Off," via JBO/V2 Records.

More sonically diverse and less caustic than previous sets like 1993's "dubnobasswithmyheadman" and 1996's "Second Toughest in the Infants," the new album retains the group's trademark surging electronic pulses and Hyde's introspective lyrical musings. But at the same time, the landscape is infused with seductive rhythmic undertows, languid acoustic instrumentation, sensuous art-pop, and chilled-out ambient flourishes.

"This album is all about evolution and discovery," Hyde says. "Rather than trying to recreate our sound from the last decade -- possibly becoming cartoons of ourselves -- Rick and I spent a great deal of time crafting this album. We felt that this record had to encapsulate our growth as individuals and as a group.

"My hero Miles Davis once said that in order to remain vital and progress as an artist, you have to destroy the past," Hyde continues. "This record is our new beginning. We've matured, both personally and professionally. We've stopped chasing the charts and album sales figures in order to focus on creating an album that was much more diverse and inclusive of the various musical mediums we find interesting, relevant, and viable."

"A Hundred Days Off" encompasses a range of influences, from Kraftwerk, Earth, Wind & Fire, and classic Chicago house music to Delta blues, dub, and indigenous music from Madagascar and the Pacific Far East. Highlights include the tribal-inflected "No Move" and the haunting soul of "Sola Sistim."

"We're really excited about this album," V2 product manager David Bell explains. "Karl and Rick delivered a unique collection that is forward-thinking while still retaining their trademark sound."

To celebrate the album, multimedia listening parties will be held in 25 major market cities the weekend prior to its release. Each venue will be supplied with custom DVDs featuring visuals provided by Tomato, the multimedia commercial arts collective Hyde and Smith helped found 11 years ago.

In addition, exclusive Tomato artwork, and Underworld interviews, videos, unreleased tracks, and remixes is being featured each day for 100 days (that began Sept. 1) at underworld-jbo.com and the group's Web site, dirty.org. A series of select live North American dates will kick off in October.

Excerpted from the Sept.14, 2002, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com members section.

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