Having partnered with musician Rick Smith in the new wave group Freur and the stadium electronica group Underworld, vocalist Karl Hyde hit his creative stride when he discovered a writing style akin to William S. Burroughs' "cut-up" method, where repurposed phrases, overheard bits of conversation, and surreal incantations formed the bulk of the group's lyrics. Put the throbbing beat of techno underneath and you've got transcendent rave music that's over the top, bonkers, and worthy of reality-ripping films like Trainspotting, but Hyde's first solo effort provides a much different experience, the serene, slow, and subtle experience of willfully falling through the cracks. Influenced by J.G. Ballard's book Concrete Island, where people become lost in alleys, stuck between buildings, or castaways stranded on highway off-ramps, Edgeland is another impossible journey through the edge of the urban landscape, but there's no fear or paranoia here, just wonder. When the slowly developing emo-soul of "Shadow Boy" realizes he's a cog in the city's machine, he's freed by the swirl, allowing data and traffic to spin faster in a song that lifts as it builds. Echoing pianos and an industrial beat represent the sensual city lights during the woozy submission titled "The Night Slips Us Smiling Underneath Its Dress," and while "Shoulda Been a Painter" delivers a grand, uplifting swell like fractured Coldplay and "Your Perfume Was the Best Thing" features a fragile delicate pop hook, the music is generally abstract, flowing, and understated, coming off as Robert Wyatt at his most loose or some of the brighter later work of Brian Eno. Mellow, abstract, and alluring, this worthwhile journey also offers Underworld fans a clear picture of Hyde's artistic contribution to the group.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries