Since the tail end of last year Underworld have been busy putting together a series of download only projects in the form of The RiverRun Project. 'I'm a Big Sister...' marks the final project in this series, with Smith and Hyde set to record a follow up to 2003's A Hundred Days Off over the summer.
The RiverRun Project has been an interesting one, eschewing the established music industry norms of not just having hard copies of your releases for sale, but also organising music into songs and albums and running the standard release schedule of releasing an album and 3-4 supporting singles. All of the RiverRun pieces (for, at 25-30 minutes each, that is what they are) are available for purchase from UnderworldLive for at £5 each (the newest, 'I'm a Big Sister...' is due to go on sale on 10 June 2006). When placed together they are around about the length of an album but it is refreshing to see some artists who are prepared to buck the trend.
Each RiverRun project consists of entirely new music and when consumed as a whole they feel like a walk through a parallel universe's Underworld back-catalogue. Part one, 'Lovely Broken Thing' is reminiscent of Second Toughest in the Infants over its first half and Dubnobasswithmyheadman over the closing minutes as Karl's voice shines through acid and rain. Part two, 'Pizza for Eggs' is more laid back and organic.
The closing part, 'I'm a Big Sister and I'm a Girl and I'm a Princess and this is my Horse', is initially laid back and ethereal, warm yet isolated. The music builds over the course of the first ten minutes until a beat eventually enters the mix. Sounds shift, vocal snippets overlap, fading in and out. Things happen. S-L-O-W-L-Y the music changes and then QUICKLY disintegrates into its third 'movement'. The track still maintains the warmth of tracks such as the frankly flawless 'Jumbo' from 1999's Beaucoup Fish.
'I'm a Big Sister...' is full of texture and details. Good background music, but really this is music constructed for listeners to lose themselves in. Utilise some good quality headphones and explore. The forth movement sounds almost as if it emanated from a church in a far-off land; noises sound like church bells, another noise resembles chanting. The whole affair is brought to a heart-stopping close with a piano and some ambient noise.
The RiverRun Project really is a fantastic thing. Since Darren Emerson left Underworld the band have strived to escape the perceived greatness of their earlier albums. Their first album as a duo, A Hundred Days Off could only really be criticised for sounding too much like someone impersonating Underworld and not enough like the genuine article. RiverRun lays any concerns to rest. Underworld are still great, innovative, genre-defying and, what's more, beautiful.
To purchase any of The RiverRun Project visit UnderworldLive.