DRIFT: Episode 2 – “ATOM”
Smith Hyde Productions
A whole year of tracks over 52 weeks, tied with a writing and visual project too: Text, films, music. The Drift Project. That’s been Underworld’s aim across the last year. It’s gone so well it seems there’ll be Drift # 2 – or a new name perhaps; the next set of phases in an ongoing project. The first few entries are about to be boxed into a set of physical releases and I’m going to work through reviewing the music ahead of the boxset release.
So Episode 2 is the best value – given it presents as if an EP but is really a double-album. That’s thanks to the final track, album-length in its own right, a full collaboration with The Necks. This was ‘teased’ on DRIFT: Episode 1 – “DUST” but the real magic is right here with 47 minutes of Appleshine Continuum. We’ll get to that after first talking about the other tracks eh.
Episode 1 opens with a 30-second intro – little more than a screech, but opening track-proper.
We open with Appleshine – Film Edit. This is the sort of after-hours minimalist techno that has informed almost every Underworld release, part of the fabric, the bedrock of the group’s sound. Those big ole 808 clappers come out as the dancefloor-pulse lifts and the synths stream in behind. There’s a plaintive vocal that oozes out from deep inside this cut. It’s at moments like this that it’s easy to link all the way back from the Underworld of 2019 to the band Freur in its mid-1980s moment.
Our second track here, Molehill, is even more overtly Freur-esque. A word-less chorus intoned over glacial piano voicings. Um, yeah, that’s them their guys that were once doing “Doot Doot”.
Threat of Rain returns us to the techno world of when Underworld was rubbing shoulders with all the other Big Beat bang-along blasters from Orbital, Prodigy and Chemical Brotherss on down. But that Krautrock-ian edge to the rhythm track is something that’s always set them apart. And so it is here. We’re on a 15-minute train ride here, we can almost feel the static electricity from the window frame as we nuzzle in hoping to see more than the passing blur.
Brussels is track four and it begins with a big techno-pulse before dissolving into a beaut wee pop song.
Soniamode is like glitch-pop hip-hop with a techno base. And it’s as wonderful as you might expect given that.
And then we ride off with the Necks collab on Appleshine Continuum. We start with shards of sound as Underworld is at the helm and it’s a surging bit of techno that’s very nearly jarring but far too interesting to just be noise. The form starts to smooth out over the first few minutes and then it’s to a deep rhythmic ride as swirls of organ come into play. What transacts over the next half-hour is essentially the smoothest, deepest “DJ” handover as Underworld all but dissipates, pixelating out from behind the wheel to re-materialise in the back seat. And almost without noticing the Australian post-jazz minimalist trio is driving us home; in much the way as they did on their own album Drive By. It’s that kind of ‘instant-groove’ rather than the slow merging and mingling on other Necks albums. It’s wondrous and addictive to listen to – worth having out on its own really as an album-length track (as with most Necks releases).
“ATOM” – the second episode of Underworld’s Drift series is brilliant. It has little bit and pieces from across the musical worlds of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith. And it manages, still, to hint at more interesting twists and turns for the near future.
To read a review of Drift Episode 1 – DUST click here