For their first album in three years, Underworld has decided to shake things up a bit. By reaching out to some of electronic music’s most compelling artists in several genres they have created an album that simultaneously returns to their rave roots while also pushing their sound into exciting new territories. Barking, Underworld’s sixth studio album, is nothing short of brilliant, awe-inspiring dance music at its finest.
Barking marks the first time Underworld has worked with such an impressive roster of co-producers. Paul van Dyk, Mark Knight, D. Ramirez, Dubfire, and drum&bass wonderboy High Contrast all appear on the album, providing their signature sounds to the proceedings. The resulting album feels like a night at a late 90s rave. Each track is like wandering into a new room of sonic adventures and surprises. Impeccable house and deep trance dominate the album’s sound with some truly outstanding moments. Album opener “Bird 1″ comes out of the gate hard with its driving bass and synths that swirl around those classic detached Underworld vocals. “Between Stars” continues this vibe with soaring electro and the catchy vocal refrain of “Step back!” These songs are so full of classic rave sounds, you are immediately transported back to 1999.
But what truly sets Barking apart is its experimental spirit. Flirting with drum&bass grooves on “Scribble” and techno-tinged broken beat on “Hamburg Hotel” finds Underworld breaking new ground creatively and reinventing themselves in the process. Thirty years into their collaboration, Underworld’s Rick Smith and Karl Hyde continue to sit at the forefront of dance music innovation. Barking is just further proof that Underworld isn’t going anywhere.
- Norman Mayers