Robert Hood Robert HoodOmega
I’ve noticed that in the company of certain people, it’s not ok to speak about Robert Hood in unfavourable terms. They are the techno purists, and anything that isn’t to the constant affirmation of the transcendence, profoundness, and eternal state of grace of their idols is an insult. Honestly, they’re worse than religious fundamentalists. Merely suggesting that for some time Jeff Mills or Hood himself hasn’t been on top form, but coasting on autopilot, can have the purists crying for you to be stoned at dawn. That’s why before I even get started I want to say that I think “Omega”, the latest offering from the man from Detroit, seems to me to be a repetition of ideas. A techno dejà vu that burns in your ears –obviously made with quality audio and exemplary sound conviction, even though that’s not enough by itself– precisely because it seems stuck in time. “Omega” is (read this part as if there were fanfare announcing the birth, wedding, or crowning of a queen) ROBERT HOOD’S NEW ALBUM (this is how a belligerent fan would ask for it in the store, with emphasis). It may be “new” but it seems like it could be from 1997. And not only in sound - the concept isn’t surprising either.
“Omega” is inspired by the film “The Omega Man” (Boris Sagal, 1971), a classic 70s science-fiction dystopian film very close to “Soylent Green” and “THX 1138”, and not only because in the first film the main character was also Charlton Heston. This film also went in-depth about the concept of the last man left alive on Earth. After a biological disaster, the entire population disappears except the anti-Adam, the end of the human race. These films imagined a sombre future –those years were the height of the Cold War– and a hostile planet that was uninviting to inhabit, which was also what the group Underground Resistance indicated in the graphic representation of their albums and the messages cut into the grooves on the vinyl albums at the end of the 80s: even the harshest visions of the future and the most inhospitable outer space is more attractive than this, our world. Robert Hood started here, under the orders of Mike Banks and Jeff Mills. Over the years, his techno has been an extension of this sci-fi –as well as that of Ballard, K. Dick, Matheson, Sturgeon, and Adriss as far as literature goes– which found a distinctive trait when it took a leap towards severe minimalism in “Minimal Nation” (M-Plant, 1994). Since then, three things have happened: the electronic music world kept turning without Hood, years later he was rescued and reclaimed as a master, and since then, his prestige has been proportional with the length of his career and the importance of his ideas. The problem is that the ideas have barely changed since 1994.
For example, the idea of the conceptual album based on a science fiction film, which serves as an homage to the film and an alternative sound track. Didn’t Mills do that for Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”? If it catches you unawares, “Omega” might be an attractive album at first; after a few seconds of reflection, it is neither original nor necessary—it is a predictable manoeuvre that doesn’t even need techno: the battle to earn prestige, the status of serious music, was earned a long time ago. So what positive values can we extract? What is surprising is that there are many positive values, because all of the above isn’t a criticism of Hood’s music per se, but rather of the laziness that Hood has shown for almost two decades. If we forget about the historical and personal context–which, as I insist, is not easy– what is left in “Omega” is a great imbalance between very high-level techno and unimportant techno. One part is satisfactory and the other is tedious and mechanised. It must also be said that Hood used up his best bullets with the maxi released several weeks ago, “Alpha / Omega (End Times)” , which anticipated the most pulsing part of the album (nearly twenty minutes). He played his best cards there (and, at the same time, his two best cuts) and it’s logical that the rest doesn’t sound as good. The production is excellent: clear, a spectrum plagued with sounds that are imperceptible even listening with a good pair of headphones, a great deal of depth. There is no argument, technically. But you come to “The Wheels of Scape”, or you pass by “The Family Watches” first, or the futurism meets the concrete of “The Plague (Cleansing Manoeuvres)” (which sounds like the strangest work of Cristian Vogel ), or let yourself get carried away by the intro “Alpha (The Beginning)”, with its oscillating pulse, its precise boxes, its profound rhythm, its cosmic density, all of the collected resources overexploited by Detroit techno since the beginning, and although you can’t argue with the quality, you have to ask yourself, where is the novelty? The answer is simple and painful: there is none. We have been listening to this album—hard and absorbing, futuristic and human, clinical and with congas, spacious and asphyxiating—forever. Claude T. Hill
Robert Hood - The Family Watches
Robert Hood - Are You God?