w Underworld - "Oblivion With Bells" // random.access
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LABEL: Underworldlive.com RELEASE DATE: October 15, 2007 GENRE: Ambient, Progressive House, Techno
// review by Beverley

Dark, deep beats straight out of the Underworld!

In 2007, Underworld, a British duo comprised of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, released an album called "Oblivion with Bells". The title is very mysterious and I have been known to enjoy their music in the past, including certain tracks on this album, so I was excited to share with you my play-by-play.

When I first started listening to Crocodile, I was convinced I had just popped on a journey album, but the song quickly transitioned to a very funky disco sound. The vocals put a bit of a damper on my experience, however, as the echoey sound gave a dark and dramatic feeling that I didn't really think was compatible with the funky, groovy vibe of the background music. It felt more like I was listening to two songs, one of which I enjoyed a lot more than the other. If Underworld had taken a more upbeat approach with this song, I think I would have really enjoyed it.

Beautiful Burnout keeps a smooth transition with a funky beat that gradually becomes more and more relaxing. The vocals have a very robotic quality which I find incredibly attractive. The drums have a very primitivist feel in this song, which combines to leave a very powerful, dark and intense vibe. It's the kind of song you play while gracefully gliding by city streets in the night, like you would see in some kind of overly sexual car commercial.

Holding the Moth brings in another dark, intense beat. I can totally imagine one of those crazy raver girls with tubes in their green dreadlocks grinding up against something to this beat. But aside from that disturbing image, this spoken-word piece is very intense and hot, with its deep, intimate whispering about cryptic metaphors. I've got my glass eye on YOU, Underworld! I do wish they hadn't involved the piano, however, as I am convinced that is the most boring and cliché instrument in the world, and it undoes the darkness and mystery to this song. Either way, I still find myself wiggling to this song.

Do you ever watch the Simpsons? The beginning of To Heal sounds just like the shot of the sky at the very beginning of the Simpsons theme song, except instead of going anywhere, this song just lingers in a very angelic and relaxing, but overall rather dry and slow sort of musical purgatory. While this might be nice if you want a background track for sleeping or meditation, this was not what I was hoping for. At least it is short.

Ring Road is one of my favourite songs from this album. A very intense jungle rhythm meets dark spoken word lyrics centered around the brutalities of inner city life and the problems of exploitative capitalism and results in a piece that is very serious and engaging. This song is everything that I think of in cosmopolitan life: a critical and theoretically conscious awareness of one's everyday context, surrounded by the fast pace of complexity of city life reappropriated as art. I wonder if the title is a reference to a passage about the nature of time in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. For me, this song is the best and most developed of the album.

Glam Bucket had a dizzying, flighty feel which I did not enjoy. While I appreciated the different textures and experimental attitude of this song, none of the sounds were strong enough to draw me in. The soft, unfocused sound which went on for far too long and, in my opinion, felt more like a swarm of insects around my head; it was almost that annoying.

When Boy Boy Boy began playing I was happy to have a beat back -- and a rather enjoyable one at that! Like many other songs on this album, this track includes a violin-like sound, but unlike other tracks it seems to also include some kind of sitar-like sound. The vocals here are howling and dark in a very psychedelic-folk tradition. I was pleasantly surprised to realise how much of a throwback to the late sixties this song was!

In my vocabulary, experimental is always a good word, and that still holds for Cuddle Bunny vs. The Celtic Villagers. Basically it is a very short song of ambient noise and very deep, frightening sounds made with what I assume is a cello. I enjoyed how this song inevitably brought a story to mind, almost as though it were the soundtrack to a strange psych-thriller film. Even though this was an interesting experience, you won't find it on my iPod any time soon. Fixed Invitation continues the theme of spoken-word songs with kickin' beats and stream-of-consciousness-style highly visual lyrics. How do they think of so many random things to say? I really enjoyed the synth they used in this track, as it feels very glamourous. Good Morning Cockerel, however, is terrible in my opinion. The singing is droning and sad, the synth sounds droning and equally sad, and they use one repetitive chunk of piano! As I mentioned earlier, I am not a fan of piano, but I dislike it even more when it is the same riff played over and over again for the whole song.

The next track is called Best Mamgu Ever, and apparently "mamgu" means "grandma", so I think it is pretty cute that one of the artists wrote a song for their grandma. The song is mostly a really cool beat with some remixed speech sounds and some background crooning. For such a simple song, it is pretty enjoyable. Unfortunately, for such a simple song, it is also too long. Call me impatient, but I cannot listen to a nine minute song with no lyrics. Hopefully someone made their mamgu very happy by writing a song for them.

Loads of Birds was a rather bland finish to the album. The beat is fairly standard, the song advances slowly and is too slow-paced. The vocals are very calm a meditative, but don't really bring anything new. Again we see the use of violin, we also see some saxophone, and a didgeridoo-like syth, which adds some unique texture. This song, along with fixed invitation, were probably my least favourites.

This album certainly had some high points, but also a few dry patches. While I would take a few of these tracks as favourites, some of them would definitely be left in a pile in my room to collect dust. I'm going to continue listening to Underworld, but I will probably stick to their more popular songs.

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