- Paradygm Shift, the new album from Robert Hood, is a return to minimalism, but not as we might recognise it. The techno of 1994's Minimal Nation, his career- and genre-defining album, drew strength from simple combinations of drums, chords and hi-hats. Sinewy sounds were held together with smears of bassline funk ("Ride," "Station Rider E") rubbery harmonics ("Rhythm Of Vision") or dial-tuned acid ("Museum"). Paradygm Shift aspires to the "simple, repetitive programming," as Hood puts it, of his mid-'90s music, but the base materials are larger. If you imagine Minimal Nation's tracks as rooms in a house, as the Detroit-born, Alabama-based artist once did, then his latest album might resemble a monument of overwhelming scale.
The album has plenty of familiar facets. "Idea"'s prancing piano steps, "Nephesh"'s bright chords, "I Am"'s alarm-style lead—these are well-established hallmarks of Hood's, which you'll hear on many of his best M-Plant 12-inches. But Paradygm Shift, an album made in part to shake up old habits, moves beyond these classic tropes. The ambient "Preface" sets the scene with undulating synth tones, spinning clicks and sprays of white noise. On "Idea," these sprays become waves, which rush behind cymbal and hi-hat rallies. Synth pads are squeezed on "Solid Thought" as though caught in a hydraulic press; a faint electronic whine suggests overworked circuitry.
The changes on Paradygm Shift don't seem radical, but they're consequential. The loops—melodic leads, especially—are more prone to change. This is most apparent on the sliding organs of "Pneuma," or the braided arps of "Pattern 8." In these congested patterns, Paradygm Shift tends to lose sight of its focal points. Tracks like "Solid Thought" and "Pattern 8" are caked with accents, effects and counterpoints. The rhythms, carrying this extra weight, can seem as laboured as a run through mud.
Hood may have compared Minimal Nation to a house, but his tracks also work like muscles, which get thicker and stronger by doing the same thing over and over. Paradygm Shift's patterns, by contrast, can seem erratic and convoluted. Snares and hi-hats suddenly drop or rise in pitch. Other bits of percussion seem dislodged, like loose ball bearings. The loops themselves evolve over time, but rarely into energising forms. Paradygm Shift often does the opposite of what Hood intended. The album, far from being simple and repetitive, lacks the foundations that can make those traits in his music so effective.
03. I Am
04. Solid Thought
07. Pattern 8
08. Thought Process
09. Lockers (Extended)