Another Wardrobe In My Head: Karl Hyde’s Favourite Albums
, April 25th, 2013 09:07
Following the release of his first solo album, Edgeland, the Underworld singer picks out the jewels of his record collection
It is depressing to think that somebody as cerebral, cultured and creative as Karl Hyde is known by the majority of people as the man who shouted “ LAGER LAGER LAGER” on the Trainspotting soundtrack. There’s an irony, too, as Hyde, frontman of techno pioneers Underworld, is a former alcoholic, and that refrain was never meant to be celebratory. If Damon Albarn has become the benchmark for the modern day Renaissance Man, then Hyde ticks all the boxes, though you feel it’s a tag that this unassuming man would be swift to reject – he is prone to flights of surreal fancy, but pretentious he is not. But how else can you sum up a career that, in partnership with his collaborator of almost 35 years Rick Smith, has taken such diverse paths?
Most recently the duo were lauded for their role as musical directors of the Olympics Opening Ceremony, where they sequenced the quaking, monolithic synth-blasts of Fuck Buttons and Blanck Mass alongside more celebrated British music. They also scored Danny Boyle’s Olivier Award-nominated stage play Frankenstein (and his amazing sci-fi film Sunshine), and made some of the defining club records of the 1990s/2000s as Underworld, where they juxtaposed the alienation of urban life with the hedonistic rush of late-night excess. Eight albums in and now both in their 50s, Hyde and Smith are still serving up cutting-edge techno that appeals to old-school ravers and acolytes of Radio 1 alike (not that the “nation’s favourite” have helped the band’s cause of late, refusing to playlist their recent singles, deeming the band to be too old). Hyde is also an artist of some note, graduating from Cardiff Art College in 1978 and specialising in video, installations and painting. He held the first exhibition of his abstract, gestural paintings (some of which have adorned the sleeves of Underworld’s records and publicity material) in 2012, and is also part of the art and design collective Tomato.
Next up for Hyde, and the reason for his Baker’s Dozen, is Edgeland, a solo album of “processed folk” music, the first record he has made under his own name in his lengthy career. Taking John Martyn’s 1973 album Inside Out as his jumping off point, Edgeland is a concept album of sorts, with Hyde’s distinctive lyrical peculiarity inspired by the hidden corners and hinterlands of London (there is also an accompanying film, made by Hyde and the director Kieran Evans), set to beautiful, atmospheric soundscapes of exquisitely processed acoustic guitars, found-sounds and glitchy beats. You can hear Pink Floyd, Fairport Convention and Martyn, of course, but also Davids Sylvian and Bowie, and Jon Hopkins and King Creosote’s Mercury-nominated collaboration Diamond Mine, that fused trad-folk with ambient electronica. For Hyde, making a solo record has given him an opportunity to write the most direct and personal lyrics of his career (for Underworld he only ever captured fragments) and encouraged by his friend and frequent collaborator Brian Eno, to “sing more”.
So how hard was it for such a musical obsessive to narrow down a list of 13 albums?
“When it came to doing the list it was like, ‘what 13 records am I thinking about today?'” he explains. “I’m thinking about music all the time. I receive quite a lot of records in the post from small labels and review them and link to them on my website most days. And I do the odd radio show – plus I’m an avid collector. But it’s not definitive. I mean, there’s no dub in this list and some of my friends will say, ‘Hyde! There’s no dub. You love dub!’ And I do. Plus I’ve been getting really into Dylan lately. If you called me in a year’s time maybe there’d be some Dylan on there.”
Edgeland is out now via Universal. Click on the image below to begin scrolling through Hyde's choices