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Robert Hood - Omega

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Artist: Robert Hood

Album: Omega

Label: M-Plant

Review date: Nov. 18, 2010

Robert Hood interprets The Omega Man? After pretty much inventing minimal techno in the mid-1990s with Minimal Nation, Hood has kept himself busy with a steady stream of 12"s, EPs and mixes, but not so many albums. So, hot on the heels of last yearís reissue of that seminal work, he finally released his first proper LP in years, and itís a techno re-imagining of the campy post-apocalyptic Charleston Heston vehicle. If the premise seems a tad underwhelming, perhaps thatís the point. How else to escape the long shadow of a game-changing debut?

In keeping with the lonely, paranoid feel of the film, Hood delivers a pulsing batch of songs that skimp on melody in favor of churning, tense rhythms and thick coagulations of sound. But donít mistake Omega for another neo-Carpenter exercise in faux vintage soundtrack cheese; this is Detroit techno through and through. Lots of 909 kick, lots of dark futurism, lots of intensity. And as you would expect from a paragon of Detroit techno, thereís also lots of lushness. Like Mike Banks, Jeff Mills, Moodyman, Anthony "Shake" and, most of all, Theo Parrish, Hood knows how build a world of sound in which each instrument, each drum hit, has its own unique identity. I was especially thinking of Parrish when an unquantized rim shot pushed its way to the front of the mix, sounding distant, distorted, clear, full and kinda shitty all at once. This was no mere drum machine preset; each sound on Omega sounds crafted by Hood just for you.

This characteristic is essentially what makes the record come alive. After all, there are a zillion 12"s out there by some German dudes with Ableton that sound almost identical to OmegaÖ but not quite. Hood is a master, and the reason for tuning in is to hear a master at work. The record flows, to the point of calling into question the difference between minimal techno and minimal composition. Is this even dance music? I guess so. I mean, I know there are clubs where people play this kind of stuff, but personally I felt more hypnotized than activated, even (especially) with the volume cranked.

That craftsmanship is also, intriguingly, probably the albumís weakest point. After all, itís not so much fun to listen to a master at work. Itís awe-inspiring, interesting and sometimes profound, but itís not very exciting. Rather than audience to a risky maneuver, we are entranced students in the classroom. Omega is a masterclass in techno dynamics and an enveloping listen, but its fire is a controlled burn.

This will more than please those parishioners of the Church of Detroit, a congregation as devoted as any Delta blues junkies or Bach purists. As an avid fan, perhaps not quite worshipper, I found Hoodís new album impressive, soulful, enjoyable, boring, fussy, surprising, predictable, tactile, uninspired, inspired, intense and flabby. Sometimes it leapt out of the speakers, but sometimes seemed too obvious. Maybe belonging so fully to a genre, even one you helped to create, is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you play by your own rules. On the other, theyíre still rules that you eventually have to break.

By Daniel Martin-McCormick

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