Robert Hood and his hooded rebels are here, and they’ve got an insurgency planned for MUTEK Montreal tomorrow night. Their weapons: dark, cerebral future-sounds backed by thumping 808 beats. If you dare to meet them in dance floor combat on May 31st at Metropolis, you might survive, but you’ll be changed forever.
Cheeseball hyperbole? Sure, but Hood’s brand of minimal techno was always combative. Deliberately and willfully unmarketable, as Hood and his cohorts at the Underground Resistance had it. Comprising Hood himself, Jeff Mills and Mike Banks, the former collective were at the centre of the Detroit techno scene, a dance music rebellion whose legendary raves, circa the early ’90s, were the perfect storm of downtrodden Detroit’s greatest resources: 1) a creative and energetic young population, 2) copious drugs, and 3) cavernous, abandoned warehouse spaces rented dirt-cheap by the night. The sound was sparse, skeletal and mean; a sonic portrait of a world stripped to the bone.
Politics underwrote much of Hood’s early work with Underground Resistance and his output under his aliases The Vision and Monobox. His work is a prolific catalogue of impeccably-produced tunes that are dark but warm, cerebral but funky. “It was all about reality and dealing with reality,” Hood said of his techno work in a 2010 interview. “At the time Public Enemy was out there pushing this idea of being culturally and socially aware about our surroundings and about ourselves. That was the main focus of Underground Resistance, whereas some of our contemporaries were more concerned about a fantasy landscape.”
Now based in Alabama, Hood still produces much of his work under the shadow of Detroit. His latest, Motor: Nighttime World 3 (2012), details the decaying post-industrial city in a cohesive concept album. Both the musical and political elements, indistinguishable in Hood’s work, are roundly addressed in this layered, deeply-composed musical odyssey, which features thorny titles like “Slow-Motion Katrina” and “Hate Transmissions”.
Using techno as his foundation and constant reference, Hood reaches well beyond the boundaries of the form, blending noirish jazz, ethereal Blade Runner synthscapes and deep, dark dub into organically flowing parts of the album’s whole.
The result is a work that’s urgent, brooding and elegant, all at the same time.This is precisely the kind of thing you want to stumble across in the dark at MUTEK — the kind of sound that’ll get your body moving while it slowly rewires your brain.
We’ll see you there tomorrow. For now, we leave you with one of Hood’s classic cuts, produced during techno’s heyday. If you listen very carefully, you might hear a shout-out to his hometown…