Review: Karl Hyde – Edgeland
Published on April 27th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
In this instance, Edgeland would seemingly refer to the borderlands of Essex as documented by accompanying film The Outer Edges, but it could just as well reflect its existence in the Venn diagram’s centre between synaesthetic electronica and guitar pop.
Karl Hyde’s day job as one half of the legendary Underworld makes this latter element the more surprising, of course; his debut solo album sheds their lush, clubby trips in favour of a more atmospherically and psychedelically loaded psychedelic mix, drawing attention to the to the ‘edgeland’ between wake and sleep that they do have in common.
If Rocksucker was given to engaging in music journo smartarsery, we would at this point set up a construct whereby Underworld and Karl Hyde were fellow ravers sitting on adjacent park benches at 5am: whereas Underworld would constitute two inspired blokes feverishly jabbering away at each other as they ride the crest of the buzz, Karl Hyde would be alone and marvelling at the natural surroundings while gently coming down. (As we suspected, we are given to engaging in music journo smartarsery. Please accept our apologies.)
While the song titles and lyrics remain engagingly surrealistic, it’s strange to hear Hyde singing sweetly where once he ranted menacingly about snakes, lager and Bruce Lee. “My imagination wants to come out to play” we are informed on “Angel Café”, and this is certainly helped along by his decision to rope in erstwhile Brian Eno and Paul Simon collaborator Leo Abrahams.
What results is something altogether more straightforward than Underworld, albeit steeped in gleaming electronic clockworks. In fact, the production is wonderful: “Your Perfume Was the Best Thing” ascends into a triumphant arrangement of plastic orchestra, “Cut Clouds” makes use of found sounds and “Shoulda Been a Painter” validates its title with a weird sort of digital stomp that’s shimmering and elating over the top of it.
The unfamiliar pop leanings are largely successful: “Angel Café” could be one of the more spaced-out numbers from The Shins’ third album Wincing the Night Away, “The Boy With the Jigsaw Puzzle Fingers” has an anthemic swing to it, while “Slummin’ It for the Weekend” sounds suitably slothenly yet enraptured, like Elbow meets Jim Noir or something like that. It’s tremendous.
“Shadow Boy” makes for an epic penultimate track, and “Sleepless” a bleepy, moongazing closer marked by the intimately descriptive lyrical likes of “Lights are off in the room tonight / Pale night through an upstairs window” and “Wish I got chocolate to take away the taste”. Edgeland is a satisfying listen that bears repeat listening; it’s just hard to avoid holding it up against Underworld’s seminal back catalogue.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!