DRIFT: Episode 3 – “HEART”
Smith Hyde Productions
Episode 2 might have been the best value – in terms of length – but if I have a favourite from Underworld’s EP-packages collated from material across the last year (The Drift Project) then so far it’s most definitely Episode 3 (aka Heart) – its title a reminder of how far dance music has travelled, how far we have had our earliest opinions twisted; I remember my chief criticism of almost any electronica and certainly the surging techno of the late 90s was that it was only ever sometimes art and barely ever contained any heart. That’s a naïve view and it’s been blown apart many times of course and one of the bands to do that was Underworld.
Where previous entries in this series have seen them hinting all the way back to their days as Freur and to the ‘pop’ styled first two Underworld album here we see them in present day, with opening track Dune all but imagining what Bowie’s next music might have sounded like. It also links to A Hundred Days Off and songs like the Underworld twist on early-hours R’n’B, Sola Sistim. Its gorgeous, unhurried glide unfolding here over ten minutes.
Second track, Custard Speedtalk also rides along for 10-minutes, but it’s via the instant introduction of a brittle-funk backbeat. Hyde, again, is in full Bowie mode as his voice provides the real drift here, stretched out, relaxed, ageless. This is yet another Underworld anthem. The magic. The mercurial way Smith and Hyde have with a bit of a techno loop, some extra electronica flourishes and a banging-good pop melody.
This Must Be Drum Street harks back to when Underworld was fully established with its mid/late-90s classics and with its dark pulse this feels like its begging for some strobe accompaniment and a stadium audience to all start nodding at once. It’s a future-classic.
Pinetum is where autopilot is switched on for a 12-minute, mostly-instrumental techno dirge. Oh, it’s in no way bad, just the one bit of almost-filler material here.
And then, because Drift is a project that encourages and allows anything to come up, a ‘drift’ between styles and modes, we close with Poet Cat, just under six minutes of sinewy groove and vague jazz chord voicings. I like it. As the tune is fading a couple of saxophones have something resembling a lazy fight.
There’s such a perfect mood across this EP – a range of styles, all familiar to the Underworld ethos but made to feel fresh and new.
The hot streak continues.