The sound that the trio created during that late 90s period is really unique – it’s their own hybrid of the sounds filtering in from the States, Berlin and Brussels, infused with inspired lyricism and songwriting, London “Club Mix” track lengths and the seedy inner-loathing of the Blues.
I recently played at a warehouse party in Downtown L.A co-run by a crew called Dirty Epic. It’s by no-accident that their name is lifted from Dubnobasswithmyheadman. I ended with the night with the original, 120 bpm version of “Dirty Epic” and was struck by its complexity and beauty. As a producer, hearing pieces like this is so inspiring. There’s badass sub bass in there, a pitching vocal sample that doesn’t loop yet arrive at intervals to provide a stamp of class, hypnotic bleeps, lush chords, bizarre but unforgettable lyrics, even the guitar riff doesn’t feel out of place as it arrives midway as a refrain. It’s a triumph of it’s time and I love it.
What other UK dance act of that era created countless credible, ecstatic, festival-scale Techno anthems, with abstract poetic stream-of-consciousness vocals at their heart? We were crammed in right at the front at my first Underworld concert in 2002. I was hypnotised by Karl Hyde’s performance. Strutting and swaying on stage, always wearing a big pair of Cans to keep him tight in the mix. I’m sad I missed the shows with Darren Emerson on stage with them too, bobbing up and down like an excited school boy. You just have to watch the first 5 minutes of their live video “Everything Everything” to feel the magic, Emerson and Smith working the mixer, the crowd roaring at the first line of Karl’s vocal or the drop of a 909 crash! The visual element, all designed by Tomato was of course crucial to their appeal, but that’s a whole different article.