Last month, British electronic godheads Underworld teamed with American punk godhead Iggy Pop for a surprise collaborative track, “Bells & Circles.” It was a transfixing composition, Underworld’s charging and pulsating electronic backdrop underpinning a sort of intensifying spoken-word poem from Pop. The tone was also a curious one, with Pop reminiscing about the days where you could smoke on airplanes and hit on flight attendants, things it is quite plausible Pop legitimately misses. And yet, there was something more going on there, like he was doing some kind of performative piss-take on “Those were the days”-type recollections. “Bells & Circles” was more engaging than it needed to be given that the pedigree of the artists involved alone made it interesting. It initially came across like a one-off, random little gift.
As it turns out, that was actually the lead single and opening track of a full EP from Underworld and Pop, titled Teatime Dub Encounters and due out at the end of July. The origins of the project go back to when Underworld were supervising the soundtrack to last year’s Trainspotting sequel. As you might recall, the first one’s soundtrack was iconic and influential, and the film was bookended by an Iggy Pop classic and Underworld’s soon-to-be-classic “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” — still one of their finest tracks. Fresh off their respective 2016 releases — you should revisit Underworld’s Barbara, Barbara, we face a shining future in particular if you haven’t in a while; it’s stunning — they all met up in London to discuss the prospect of writing new music for the second Trainspotting given their shared connection to the original.
Apparently Underworld’s Rick Smith set up basically a whole studio in a hotel room, and they all did a few low-key sessions. Here’s what Pop had to say about the process:
When you are confronted with somebody who has a whole bloody studio there in the hotel room, a Skyped director who has won the Oscar recently, and a fucking microphone in front of you and 30 finished pieces of very polished music, you don’t want to be the wimp that goes “Uh uhhh,” so my mind was racing.
The idea of Iggy Pop of all people being somewhat intimidated is really something! None of the material they worked on there wound up on the T2 Trainspotting soundtrack in the end, but thankfully we’ll still get to hear at least some of it now that it’s been compiled for Teatime Dub Encounters.
Along with the announcement, they also shared a second song from the EP, “I’ll See Big.” The new single is quite a different beast than “Bells & Circles.” A celestial, ambient composition, “I’ll See Big” provides an impressionistic piece for Pop to once more go into spoken-word meditation mode. This time around, it’s a lot less frantic, and a lot more ruminative, Pop’s age giving him a natural gravity and grit in his voice as he reflects on friendships through the decades, and what a few might think of him when he’s gone. The lyrics were supposedly inspired by a conversation Pop had with Trainspotting director Danny Boyle about the film’s underlying core themes of friendship. Check it out below.
01 “Bells & Circles”
03 “I’ll See Big”
04 “Get Your Shirt”
The Teatime Dub Encounters EP is out 7/27 via Caroline International. Pre-order it here.