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Robert Hood - Omega



Expectation, especially when enshrouded in an element of mythology, can often be the nemesis of many artists. Robert Hood’s relative isolation during the late 90’s and early part of the last decade when he was rarely seen in Europe did lead to a crystallization of praise and wonder for his releases. When he did invariably make an appearance, his singular minimalism cut through dancefloors because he literally didn’t sound like anyone else. His re-emergence did lead though, to a certain extent, to a modicum of familiarity diluting the impact of his sound especially when there seemed to be little change in his record box over a period of 5 years or so. It has been immensely gratifying to see him finally recognised by this new generation of techno enthusiasts, but I for one feel that he is trading on past glories just a little.

Let us remember for a moment that Hood’s releases on the whole are all quite remarkable. The majority of his M-Plant discography contains music that is far and above most techno producers and he can lay claim to producing a sound that is all his own - quite an achievement in the world of dance music when you consider just how simplistic it is. Yet it is perhaps inevitable that his rebirth in a world where his influence is huge comes at a price. To a certain extent, “Omega” is Hood sticking to what he knows best and extracting angular funk from his machines, which is what he has done for 20 years or so. There’s no downtempo material such as  what featured on albums such as “Wire to Wire” and “Midnight World”. Instead we’re treated to granular rhythmic workouts that follow a basic narrative based on the 1971 science fiction film of the same name, which Hood professes to be influenced by.

The premise is simple - Alpha and Omega represent a cyclical beginning and end, perhaps an apt concept for a minimal techno album. The execution slips somewhere in between the gaps though and the frustrating thing for me is that much of “Omega” sounds like Hood running on autopilot. There are atomised moments where the old magic of his ability to suck you into his hypnotic world emerge gracefully as always - Hood has never been about instant gratification - such as in “Alpha” where the sole power of his 909 slowly overwhelms you.  Yet too often many of the tracks seem to be like refined versions of current minimal tracks made by other artists, adding sonic trills that sound very common on today’s dancefloor. “The Workers of Iniquity” is a good example. It would be hard to really mark this out from something on M_nus and  Hood’s reduction of tempo does (a lot of these tracks are less than 130 bpm) mean that they lose that element of urgency that is a primal part of his aesthetic. When your sound is so basic, these little changes and effects can have a dramatic impact on the lessening of any identity.

Perhaps my criticisms seem harsh. There are some highlights on Omega, like “Towns that disappeared completely” where Hood’s restraint in letting the sounds flow with a grandeur is like his work of old. “Think Fast” sees a sliver of cinematic melody inflect the rhythmic underlay with excellent results, “War in the Streets” is suitably titled and the end rack brings matters to a close in dramatic fashion. However on the whole, too many of the tracks seem too cluttered, aimless and lacking that unique character that makes Robert Hood records so cherished. It would be very difficult to place any of this music near the top end of all those old M-Plant records of yore and when there’s little in the way of any marked change in direction in the sound, these comparisons are ineluctable.

Toby Frith


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