As Darren Price’s ‘Under the Flightpath’ landed on my desk, I was about to fly away. It was the summer of 1997 and I was off to spend three months in foreign parts. The image on the cover – a phantom character reaching for something – plus the suggested credibility of relative unknown Price (“He’s the mate of Underworld who remixed Born Slippy, Nuxx, right? No, not Emerson, another bloke called Darren”) added to the evocative album title… well, how could I resist?
‘Under The Flightpath’ is Price’s only fully-realised album. Opinions are divided as to its validity, but to me, it was a moment in time. One that we need to return to. And, if he’s reading this, one he should return to. It’s a take on Detroit techno I’d not heard before. Maybe his first and only showcase; maybe all his best ideas, condensed into 60 minutes, distilled from hanging around with Hyde and Smith.
You can sense the Underworld DNA pervading everything here. Those lush swooshing, whooshing, swooping ‘Dark Train’ chords transformed: that deep understanding of harmony, and structure. I dare you to predict where the 909 kick of opener ‘Airspace’ sets the scene. I taped this album and listened to it in countless minibuses in Indonesia as a distraction to the death of Princess Diana in late August of that year and I still can’t tell where it starts.
‘Blueprints’ kicks in, and you wonder what terror awaits, but Price is no a tech-horror merchant, instead, he lets you bathe in his understanding of harmonic layers and rigorous 909 programming. And leaves you wanting more.
While opener ‘Airspace’ will remain for me one of the best ways to begin a considered collection of music offerings (or “album” in old money) it’s only when, after tantalising you with possibilities, that Price let’s you have it on ‘Long Haul 747’. Another surprise: just when you think it’s all over after something that might be a guitar lilt, Price fires up his squelchy bass synth for another battering.
I flew back. But Price didn’t. He floated around and eventually settled down with – surprise! – Hyde and Smith. He’s now their co-pilot when Underworld play live, and has been for some 14 years. But, it would be nice to have a boarding pass for another journey, right? Over and out.