College days…finest days of your life. Except you spent it being held the wrong way up in a bathroom, having your Panini sticker assortment surgically eliminated out of your pockets.
If Underworld had been at your college, they’d have had your again. They need everybody to get alongside. Particularly with regards to all their musical heroes. Usually, in an album that featured such a variety of influences, one fashion would come out victorious. Not on Second Hardest…
Everybody was BFFs of their world. They made electro, dance, reggae, DnB, rock, gospel and jazz shake fingers and make up.
“The album options quite a lot of usually competing musical influences, as a result of all of us had a love for every type of music,” says important manufacturing expertise, Rick Smith. “I had a powerful feeling that we might carry one thing new to membership music. We simply adopted our noses, and nonetheless it made this sense within you that made you need to dance.”
Journey to the Underworld
Launched in 1996, Second Hardest… delivers the identical jaw-dropping customary of their debut, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, however ramps up the subtly and selection, proving as soon as once more that Underworld have been one in every of main lights of the mid-’90s Dance music fraternity.
On the time, they described their album as a “curler coaster… a experience from begin to end”, which sums up the journey completely. From the peaks of upper BPMs, to the mellower dips that allow you to catch your breath, this album by no means rests at one style or tempo for too lengthy.
The trio of Darren Emerson, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith pooled their abilities and easily astonished right here. Hyde equipped uncooked guitar licks and lyrics twice as catchy as your indie-pop darlings, and twice as rambling as any drug-addled beat poet. DJ Emerson introduced the power and data of the trendy membership vibes to the studio. And Rick Smith dealt with the engineering, manufacturing and keyboards.
Second Hardest… manages to hit a close to good steadiness of tight, sonic backdrops and a few of Hyde’s profession finest vocal performances.
A Melody Maker dwell evaluate from March ’96 declared the singer “means higher than Damon Albarn, and on par with Jarvis on the very least”. Dazed and Confused in contrast his fashion to a “phrase conflict between Ginsberg and Mark E. Smith”.
It was the final album the band did in Smith and his spouse’s spare bed room in Romford, and he squeezed as a lot gear into that tiny room as he might.
“It was most likely about twelve foot by about fourteen,” he says. “And noise was a problem. My missus’ endurance was deeper than the deepest ocean. The racket that will come out… Repetitive beats for months on finish.”
Moreover the cramped situations, instances have been additionally tight. Smith needed to promote quite a lot of gear, together with some prized keyboards, to repay the band’s current money owed. The claustrophobia of their working house, and the moths of their wallets, appeared to have fuelled their need to create such huge worlds of wealthy music.
The formulation proved a success. Second Hardest… made most end-of-year lists, and was nominated for the Mercury prize.
It stays a excessive level of the profession of an always-breathtaking outfit. And as a facet observe, boasts the best title in dance music historical past since David Holmes’ This Movie’s Crap (Let’s Slash The Seats). So there.
Observe by observe with Underworld’s Rick Smith
“The primary three tracks run collectively like a triptych. Funnily sufficient I used to be trying by previous DATs the opposite day to seek out the unique materials so we might play these out dwell, as a result of over time it has simply morphed into variations of a model of a model. After I found the originals it simply stunned me that these tracks have been made up of an actual assemblage, an actual labour of affection.
“The entire thing got here collectively from no less than three totally different items of music, from throughout a interval of almost a yr. I believe it got here collectively within the type you recognise on the album within the final two months of that interval. It got here collectively from these varied items that appeared to have one thing about them, both a temper or a sense, or with vocals with a sure lilt to them, they usually wanted to type into one thing to make all of them extra substantial.
“At the moment in dance music, dancing was totally different. I used to be actually having such a good time going out to golf equipment and actually having fun with the sensation of the rhythm, grooving about with my pathetic little dance in a nook with my eyes closed. I actually loved the – and I hate the time period – trance. I wished to make music like that, stuff that had small modifications, however felt a lot bigger in the event you had the endurance.
“Your complete album was all about not going for it, and never hitting the pleasure zones each 16 bars. What else stunned me once I was listening again to it was that it was almost 17 minutes lengthy. However it appeared so pure.”
“This was two items of music that might have existed on their very own, however I used to be caught up with the concept of fusing issues collectively into extra epic journeys. It was form of difficult.
“Barnstyle was completely influenced by what I used to be listening to in drum ‘n’ bass on the time. Trippy individuals like LTJ Bukem and stuff like Goldie’s Timeless. I used to be actually loving the beats and the playful means they sounded and the busyness of them. Barnstyle was a way more mellow Underworldy tackle it, moderately than so fierce. It’s a chunk that I nonetheless take pleasure in to at the present time, really.
“Sappy’s Curry was a straight up, very closely dub-influenced rhythm and feeling. And it sat actually properly with the drum ’n’ bass, because it does as we speak, what with dub and reggae types nonetheless flying round in jungle and dubstep.”
Confusion the Waitress
“This was a quite simple piece, based mostly round a quite simple chord and loop, and a barely modulating Nord bass. All of it hangs on what you get within the observe within the first 30 seconds, actually. It’s additionally one of many first items on the album that has that gentler strategy to Karl’s vocals in it.
“It’s kinda feeling darkish by this level. It’s not an uplifting sound – it’s extra mellow with a driving rhythm, and subtler. It holds a very unusual steadiness between emotions and feelings.
“Over time it’s one I consider, not with a fantastic sense of dissatisfaction, however one I believe would have been nicer to have developed extra. On the time of creating a observe, any observe, it feels good if you’re doing it, however every week after mastering it feels garbage. Together with this album. We by no means sit round pondering we’re going to make a observe that can final perpetually. That sounds a bit lofty to me. We simply adopted our hearts. It’s a quite simple course of. It’s a case of, ‘does this flip me on? Sure it does. Thanks very a lot’. You already know?”
“This was a really deliberate observe. It got here on very late within the album. It might need even been the final one we did. I say this rather a lot in interviews, however albums take me a very long time to do. I don’t work actually rapidly.
“In order that they cross fairly massive time intervals. Albums, as much as the final one we’ve simply accomplished, find yourself being about 80% there. Eight out of ten tracks are in place and we’ve received two weeks to the deadline after we’ve received to grasp, or I’m a useless man. There’s all the time a scrabble round on the finish to get it down.
“I bear in mind there was some superb arduous home music going round on the time. Acid Home was turning into much less widespread and sounding a bit of dated to lots of people, however I nonetheless liked the sensation of it. So Rowla had an acid observe kind of really feel to it, with a Roland 303 roaring at you, distorting a bit, however accomplished on this Nord synthesizer, which I completely adored, and didn’t have for the primary album. I used to be attempting to focus and take my time and do a slowly constructing, aggressive piece in that fashion.
“We performed this observe a lot dwell over time. And once I hearken to the album model I personally discover it a bit disappointing. After we play it dwell it’s a lot rawer and louder, and hammers alongside, actually.”
“That is additionally actually good to play out dwell. It’s simply easy, chopped up drum loop vibes. I say ‘chopped up’, however in a playable means, as one would re-trigger a pattern, you realize?
“I do know this observe got here collectively fairly rapidly, over the interval of a few month. Karl, Darren and I have been jamming on an concept, which by no means actually appeared to go wherever, however there was one thing there. So I revisited it once more a few month later, and a chap that works with us, Mike Nielson, an engineer, did a fast combine whereas I used to be midway by the tune.
“That actually helped within the observe’s improvement as a result of he actually nailed the sound of it, because it wasn’t a home or apparent techno piece on the time, it was a lot rowdier. I liked the way in which it virtually crossed over between a home and techno, and a drum ’n’ bass really feel. The absence of a four-to-the-floor was uncommon for us.”
“It’s techno, with an digital pulse. It’s received a very attention-grabbing vocal journey from Karl. We have been very a lot into not doing the identical factor once more. We wished to do one fashion and transfer on. I might take no matter lyric or vocal had been put down and edit it collectively. Keep in mind, this was at a time when it wasn’t arduous drive-based, so that you needed to make decisions earlier than you set stuff again on tape once more. The vocals had a very attention-grabbing movement, they didn’t want quite a lot of editorial, or prettying up.
“We additionally used a vocoder in a fairly a powerful means, which we’ve all the time accomplished. It’s a vital piece of package for us, the Roland Vocoder VP-330. We’ve three of them within the studio now. It’s the best vocoder on this planet, for the way in which I exploit it, anyway, which is for vocal assist. It’s simply an astonishing piece of apparatus.”
“They have been actually thrilling and busy instances after we made this album. Which appeared to hold on for an additional 15 years, to be sincere. So we would have liked some mellower tracks to calm us down. This observe was one of many issues we did. I did quite a lot of ambient music with the primary album, and proceed to. Nearly esoteric.
“On occasion we do a observe that has a delicate feeling to it. It makes for a very good break within the album. We want the document to movement. I used to be actually into the concept of creating albums that you simply’d play and hearken to all through. It wasn’t about simply taking part in one observe and going ‘that’s my favorite’, and placing one thing else on afterwards. It was a response towards what we’d gone by within the ’80s. So I believe tracks like this have been wanted.
“I prefer it nonetheless. It’s a ravishing piece, based mostly round actual easy uncooked Karl guitar, and processing loops.”
“This was accomplished in two phases. Karl and I have been upstairs within the bed room studio and neither of us actually wished to work. I bear in mind the day – I used to be feeling down and drained and Karl stated ‘come on, let’s simply put one thing down, even when it’s solely half an hour’s work’. I bear in mind simply feeling actually humpy [laughs], however getting on with it as a result of it made sense. You don’t all the time write your finest stuff if you’re in your finest temper. It doesn’t work like that sadly. Get actually completely happy and write a fantastic tune? I want.”
“In order that was the temper we have been in and I started, like we all the time do, by firing up a fast rhythm observe, a fundamental click on and a kick and a woosh and a ding…then we performed keyboards dwell over that. I believe the principle piano factor is the DX7 Mk1, which I’ve nonetheless received. It’s proper up there, quantity two in my all time favorite keyboards.
“So, it’s dwell. We made it up as we went alongside. With Karl singing and no chord sequence. I trimmed it up a bit later, eradicating the odd bum observe. It turned out to be one in every of my favorite tracks of that decade. It’s very me and Karl that tune. It’s our essence – the way in which it’s written and the unusual depth it has.”
Rick Smith on recording Second Hardest within the Infants
“The desk was a Soundcraft S600 sequence. Lovely, very fundamental, form of uncooked. We had an Atari ST 1040 pc, operating C-Lab Creator, which was dynamite and I nonetheless miss it. Sound sources operating by the desk weren’t all clocked off the identical digital clock, so you bought this magic showing between house, which was pretty.
“I additionally used an Akai MG14D 12-track tape recorder, which was synchronised to the Atari with an previous Fostex synchroniser. I might run a sequence and lock up tape on the similar time. It was a bit contact and go. Sampling was restricted. I had a Casio FZ-1 – I couldn’t afford an Akai S900.
“Mic-wise we had a Neumann TLM 170, which is gorgeous, and we’re nonetheless utilizing it. We additionally had the vocoder, an ARP 2600, an OSCar, 303s, 909s , a Nord for bass, a Yamaha DX7 Mk1, two [Yamaha] SPX90s, a Roland MT-32 unit and a Roland SD-3000.
“All of the recording was accomplished on an early Sony moveable DAT machine, battery operated. There was no arduous drive recording, though I rented one later to assemble the album and blend tracks collectively.
“Basically, mixes have been very dwell, by the console, operating a number of MIDI and tape tracks, with results dwell within the console. Very fundamental. One of many SPX90s ran stereo pitch, the opposite a stereo delay. Then the Roland SD-3000 mono delay line for suggestions and dub delays. That was it. No plugins, no compressors, no gates… I don’t understand how I did it!”