Posted by: Nick Walters | June 20, 2013

Karl Hyde: Edgeland

A bit of Bristolian edgeland. A prize to anyone who can identify it!

When I saw the cover and title of this album I immediately knew where Karl Hyde was coming from. Edgeland… the half-forgotten places on the borders of towns, the bindweed-strewn battleground where city meets country; desolate, Ballardian zones between the central business district and suburbia;  barren places in which, nonetheless, people live and work and dream. Places like Avonmouth, Hengrove, Yate, or the bits underneath the St Philips Causeway, the arse end of the M32 or the ring road around which I cycle.  A psychogeographic hinterland.

Hyde may be writing about London, specifically Romford, but every town has an Edgeland and that gives this album a universal feel. Everyone knows an “Angel Cafe” and craved “something sweet to start the day”, everyone has sat on a park bench in summer staring at the clouds mourning a lost lover, everyone has observed the antics of drunks in the small hours, everyone has “slummed it” for the weekend” (or perhaps it’s just me).

His lyrics are quite beautiful. It’s worth reading the lyric sheet on its own, it stands up as poetry in its own right.  Take this from the mournful lament Cut Clouds:

And l’ll remember you best rose tinted and laughing
The tips of your wings cut clouds for the sun

Or this from the quirky (sorry but it is) Boy With The Jigsaw Puzzle Fingers:

Metal windmills turn in lazy-crazy white against the broken sky

Or this from Shadow Boy:

I suck the light out of the world
I ride a train into the sun
Shadow boy rides a bike like a missile
Life erupts all around us

There are many many more examples of such striking imagery. The overall effect is of a melancholy (in the literary sense) soul lost in a strange/familiar world reaching out and longing for… something… but what…

Hyde’s voice is not exceptional but rises to the occasion when needed; slowed to a mournful crawl on Cut Clouds and almost euphoric in the stream-of-consciousness OOBE of Your Perfume Was The Best Thing.  Shadow Boy, the longest track here at over eight minutes, is his best vocal and lyrical achievement, an almost-celebration of the Edgeland and a lament of  the industrial areas it has replaced.

The music? Oh, the music! It’s too lively to be called ambient, and even reaches some sort of epic climax in Shadow Boy. You could say “watered down Underworld” and leave it at that, but there is much more to it. Yes, it is reminiscent of all the quiet bits on Underworld albums – Winjer, Skym, Tongue, Louisiana, etc. So if you like those you’ll love this, but many tracks are catchier and more memorable, like the pulsing, piano-drenched Shoulda Been A Painter  and the aforementioned Boy With The Jigsaw Puzzle Fingers. Hyde’s collaborator is Leo Abrahams who engineered and played on most of the tracks. Much of the music is not electronic, and if you want a label, laid-back urban melancho-folk just about sums it up.

This is miles better than the last Underworld album and makes you sit up and notice how brilliant a lyricist Hyde is. It is my album of the year so far – or was, until the new Fall album came out (of which more later). It’s so good I’ll even forgive the apostrophe abuse in the title of the first track.

The CD comes in standard format or special edition with four extra tracks which are for once worth it and a DVD containing a film by Kieran Edwards entitled The Outer Edges (Edgeland version), which I have not watched yet, and am rather reluctant to; I’ve been enjoying the images unfolding in my mind as I listen to Edgeland and don’t really want to be shown someone else’s.



  1. Album sounds good. I reckon the pic is over at Cumberland Basin beneath the Cumberland Road.

    • Nope! Nowhere near.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: