Digital Spy JUNE 25, 2014 - by Mayer Nissim


"Eno is the most unrighteous man in the world and I have a mistrust of anything he gets involved in," muttered Luke Haines to us a little while back. We're a little softer on the crown prince of ambient ourselves. But while Music For Films still gets regular plays at DS HQ, we too have to admit to a fair bit of suspicion about all things Brian Eno. So much of the glory of rock 'n' roll, and dance for that matter, is in its dizzying heart-over-head stupidity and reliance on emotion above intellect. To get all smarty-pants about music can rob it of the thing that makes it great.

As a third (and then half... and then a third) of Underworld, Karl Hyde knows a thing or two about the heart and feet always having one over on the brain. Hyde's stream of consciousness lyrics were always sharp, but never distracted from the dancefloor. His first solo excursion Edgeland may have calmed things down, but was certainly no less touchy-feely for that. So, after their 2009 Pure Scenius hangout, what of a proper double-helping of a chalk 'n' cheese cocktail?

Someday World kicks off with such giddy energy that it's almost mocking such concerns. 'The Satellites' announces itself with piercing horns, clipped drums and Interpol-y vocals for one of the most immediate singles of the year. It's an utter joy. But the rest of the nine-track album never quite lives up to this promise, too much of it floating by without making a dent.

Daddy's Car and Witness are two that almost keep up the momentum, mixing up Talking Heads twiddling with Hyde's more Underworldy ways. Who Rings The Bell sounds like an Edgeland outtake (A Good Thing). Mother Of A Dog is a nicely unsettling bit of Bowie-meets-Morricone moodiness with Karl emptying his mind directly into our ears like the old days ("I was raised by the son of a mother of a dog / I was raised by the mother of a dog").

Then without much warning, Eno and Hyde knocked out another record. High Life is much quirkier affair, though. Just six (mainly lengthy) songs that are much jammier than those on its immediate predecessor. Given the worries about Eno swamping Karl in silly index cards, it's a surprise that it's probably more fun than their first go.

The six tracks here take their precious time to worm their way into your brain, and while not all succeed, when it works, it really works.

Though it may not seem like there's much actually happening on songs like Return and Lilac, their repeated, super-simple riffs somehow entrance, getting their hooks inside you. DBF is an enjoyable jazzy racket. Time To Waste It a confused bit of strung out off-the-beat compureggae we still can't make our minds up about.

And just as the first song on Someday World makes the whole collaboration worthwhile all by itself, so does the closer on High Life. Cells & Bells comes across as a soundtrack to a lost sci-fi film about heartbroken robots amid the landscape of a decaying, dying earth.

Yeah, we're still hankering for a new Underworld record, but just like last year, we certainly won't begrudge Karl playing about and making new friends in the meantime.