There’s something kinda poignant about the fact "Never Grow Old" - featured here on the second of this 3-CD set - has been one of the biggest techno tracks of the last year. After 20 years of making high-tech soul -- and despite a turn to God -- Robert Hood’s work still sounds like something from the future, and not even in a kitsch way. Plus, massive props to anybody who can make a gospel track work on the Berghain dancefloor.
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This anniversary collection spanning twenty years of industry from a true visionary of contemporary music couldn’t be timelier. With the current resurgence in popularity for techno of various sorts and everyone who’s anyone and their dog seemingly dabbling with the form, it’s great to go back to an artist who pretty much set the blueprint for minimal techno. And while there’s a lot more than just minimal techno on this three disc set (e.g. the more recent forays into gospel-inflected house under his Floorplan moniker), it is those startlingly irreducible tracks of hypnotic streamlined propulsion that that make Hood’s productions so outstanding. Take for example a track like ‘Minus’, from 1994’s ‘Internal Empire’, which with just a deep, driving kick and a circular three note bleep somehow manages to convey a profound sense of infinite space. It’s a prime example of how Hood manages to extract maximum effect from such spartan sound elements to create music that works just as well as headmusic for the home as on the dancefloor.
This compilation is also timely (especially given the current protests in the USA against racial discrimination) in that it provides a reminder that the radical futurism of Detroit techno was born out of social struggle and a need to experiment and create new forms that could break free from the status quo. Hood’s minimalist aesthetic also originates from hardship: starting out as an artist with nothing but a single drum machine, for him minimalism is less about stripping things back but rather getting the most out of limited resources- or “Minimum structure, maximal soul” as he puts it. And that’s another thing about Hood’s sound that’s hard to put your finger on: its soulfulness, even at its hardest and most abstract. Take for example ‘Untitled Sketch’ from 1995, with its brutal kick and tough-as-nails snare and hi-hats fleshed out with backwards cymbal whispers and a bubbling soup of convulsing synth tones- despite its alien intensity it still retains a certain warmth, a human edge that electronic music often lacks.
So there you go, paradigm shifting music, some of it 20 years old but sounding just as fresh and resonant as ever.
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