You can’t pass too many people in the street who can’t recite the chorus – is it a chorus? – to Underworld’s stone-cold classic of ‘90s dance, ‘Born Slippy’. You know, the one made famous by Trainspotting. That one. Massive.
And the latest massive development in the story of Underworld is that the duo of Karl Hyde and Rick Smith has collaborated with renowned makers of fine automobiles Volkswagen – you know, the ones that had logos, before all those Beasties fans made off with them in the ‘80s – on a rather splendid new project.
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Play The Road is the project in question: an app that takes engine data from the synchronised Golf GTI’s on-board computer and processes it to produce real-time generated music, utilising the user’s phone’s array of in-built technology – its accelerometer, gyroscope and GPS receiver.
The result is music, played to the driver, which is always in sync with what’s happening on the road. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Because it is.
Says Nick Ryan, sound designer behind the app: “The idea of making non-linear music is challenging. And it’s made even more challenging when the audience, rather than the composer, is interacting with the composition. You’re not using a musical instrument – you’re using a car, and that’s an extreme abstraction of what we think of as music.”
Ever wanted to ‘play’ a car? Now you can. Sounds pretty ace if we’re honest. And it’s an aceness that’s come about through some serious hard work: months of composing, coding and driving has combined to produce Play The Road, truly at the cutting edge of responsive, reactive music design.
Underworld are the architects of this unique composition. Says Smith: “We needed to arouse emotions – if it was just an experiment that produced an experimental result, then it would have been a failure.” With the music in such trusted hands, naturally the results are far from disappointing.
Says Hyde: “Driving and music are probably the most important things in my musical education, from sitting in the back of my dad’s car at night.” We were all there once, Karl – though hopefully your pops didn’t assault you with Yes albums.
Anyway, he continues: “It was a filmscape to me, beautifully lit, and the dashboard was magical. Something was on the radio, and that was everything to me. It’s still the root of why I love music. Being in a car, surfing the radio… finding stuff that suits how you feel.”
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And how you feel when experiencing Play The Road is directly connected to how you drive the Golf GTI it’s attached to. Gingerly, excitedly… maybe so tenderly it’s like a new intimacy with a motor vehicle. (What you get up to in your own front seat is none of our concern.) However, there’s a caveat to all of this: Play The Road is not available for general release…
Come back! We’re not finished…
Thank you. Play The Road is available for the public to get its hands on via an exclusive Facebook competition. Of course, no car, no Play The Road, so winners will take a Golf GTI out for a spin. Enter HERE.
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The new issue of Clash magazine is out now and totally amazing - seriously, it's so good we've gone and made a page for it.