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Underworld’s Magical Score Was the Making of Olympics Opening Ceremony

Director Danny Boyle is quite rightly being tipped for a future knighthood following the astonishing four-hour spectacular which kick-started the London 2012 Olympic Games on Friday night. But almost as pivotal to the stunning opening ceremony as his ingenious vision was the dramatic and hugely emotive score from electronic veterans Underworld.

Having largely flown under most people’s radar since 1996’s anthemic “Born Slippy,” Karl Hyde & Rick Smith weren’t exactly the most obvious candidates to soundtrack such a historic event. But re-establishing their partnership with the Bury-born Oscar winner 16 years after Trainspotting, they proved to be the ideal choice.

Nine tracks from their back catalogue could be heard whilst the 204 countries made their way around the flag-bearing section of the ceremony, from the minimal progressive house of “Dark & Long” (from 1994 breakthrough Dubnobasswithmyheadman) to the classy trance-pop of “Always Loved A Film” (from 2010’s Barking), the highlight of which was High Contrast’s Remix of “Rez,” whose delicate piano hooks added an appropriate Chariots Of Fire edge to the trippy techno original.

But it was Underworld’s two new pieces which took the breath away of the billions of viewers worldwide. Played whilst the green and pleasant land setting was transformed into an industrial revolution parade, “And I Will Kiss” was an Olympic theme like no other. Packed full of tribal chants, slow-building synths and thunderous military rhythms, courtesy of 1000 volunteer drummers and profoundly deaf Scottish percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, the 17-minute soundscape packed the kind of emotional punch that was in keeping with Boyle’s cinematic visual display.

On the other end of the scale, “Caliban’s Dream” was as poignant as “And I Will Kiss” was grandiose. Taking elements of their 2002 single, “Two Months Off,” and fusing it with choral harmonies, gentle shuffling percussion, chiming glockenspiels and the ethereal tones of Two Door Cinema Club frontman Alex Trimble, it was the perfect accompaniment to the inspired way in which the cauldron was lit by seven promising young athletes.

Underworld may have previously been renowned for their shouts of “lager, lager, lager,” but their contribution to Friday night’s Isles Of Wonder will ensure they are now best remembered for creating one of the greatest sporting soundtracks of all time.


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About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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