- Like Actress's RIP, Robert Hood's Motor: Nighttime World 3 is a concept album. And like the Actress album it doesn't matter if you ignore that concept entirely. Interesting as the Motor back-story (Detroit's post-industrial collapse) is, the last thing you want do while listening to it is worry about "getting" any narrative arc that Robert Hood is trying to establish with "Slow-Motion Katrina" or "A Time To Rebuild." The track titles spell it out, but, ultimately, like RIP, you will connect with Motor because it is palpable soul music, techno of big, broken-hearted beauty.
If you only know Hood as the stark, sparse father of minimal techno, you may find that emotional richness hard to believe. But Motor is the third in a series of albums, the first released in 1995, where Hood puts the brake on, turns off the engine, and reflects. You might have spotted off-kilter keys and be-bop chords on Hood's last dancefloor album, Omega, but here his jazz influences, his deft command of melody, his love of pulsating electro noir even ("Drive (The Age Of Automation)" roars off into the distance like something by Vitalic or The Hacker), are brought together in this serious, atmosphere-drenched setting.
Obviously, Hood is working in the Detroit techno lineage. In its muted tone, combustible urgency, stark Transmat synth strings, "Black Technician" could not be any more classically Detroit. But he is far from confined by his heritage. Hood both puts his own ridiculously clever stamp on the Detroit idiom (there are drums on Motor that sound like they're coming, not from one speaker or the other, but the next room), or takes it to places it has rarely been, this side of Carl Craig.
There are excellent club tracks here: the monumental slab of dub-acid, "Hate Transmissions," or "Drive," which cropped-up on Marcel Dettmann's recent CLR podcast, but Motor truly stuns when it floats away, slows, gets ruminative. "Better Life" starts all plangent, two-note bass chords and hovering, restless beats, but the kick never comes. Instead, it is overrun by giddy jazz piano lines and orbiting synths. It is followed by "The Wheel," an unbearably sad, beautiful cousin of Kraftwerk's "Tour De France." Later, "Slow Motion Katrina," all Bjork-ish plucked strings and dulcet jazz-funk shimmy, starts a closing trio, including "Assembly" (think: Rustie in a bleak, nay suicidal, funk) that plays out, brilliantly, in the slippery, effervescent optimism of "A Time to Rebuild." This is masterful, painfully human machine music.
01. The Exodos
02. Motor City
03. Better Life
04. The Wheel
05. Black Technician
07. Drive (The Age Of Automation)
08. Torque One
09. Hate Transmissions
10. Slow Motion Katrina
12. A Time To Rebuild