Robert Hood - DJ-Kicks

  • The Detroit techno artist's switch to big-room sounds makes for a lackluster mix.
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  • Over the past year, Robert Hood has seemed to gravitate toward "big room." Of course, big-room techno often sounds like plenty of other techno, so it might seem like no big deal. But there are usually a couple of key differences. One is the use of white noise—you'll know that hissy blast at the drop when you hear it. The other is plenty of breakdowns, along with a general emphasis on outsized moments and dance floor impact. If we were to make a couple of generalisations, this music is written for big crowds at big venues, and in those contexts it can work very well. Its detractors, however, say it's formulaic, its production theatrics a little cheap. There were hints of Hood's move towards the sound with last year's Paradygm Shift album, but it became much more obvious with the recent EPs Clocks and Paradygm Shift Volume 3. We now get his entry into !K7's DJ-Kicks mix series, which, with the added context of tracks from other producers, gives an even clearer picture of where he's at these days. You can check off the classic Robert Hood signifiers—production qualities he's been using successfully since the release of 1994's seminal Minimal Nation—as the mix gets fully under way with his own "Focus." Pounding grooves? Rubbery drums? Chattering claps? Sci-fi synths? They're all here. It's quickly clear, though, when Slam's "Remain" rolls in, that things are now a little different. Filtered breakdowns, air-raid synths and (albeit subtle) white noise weren't features on tracks Hood typically played a couple years ago. We get a bit more of this type of thing on the next track, Hood's "Clocks," and a lot more soon after with Gary Beck's remix of Mark Broom's "King." These are all strongly produced tracks whose efficacy is easy to imagine. But it's all still quite jarring—jarring considering the DJ who's playing them and jarring in the context of a mix CD. The faithful representation of a DJ's current club set is a tried-and-tested way to approach a mix CD. It's a method that's yielded great results for Hood himself in the past. But Hood's DJ-Kicks shows how some styles of club music are less suited to this transposition than others. Is it possible to get truly lost at home in the dramatic midsection that begins with the Hood exclusive "Mirror Man" and ends with Mark Reeve's "Dice"? Maybe. But it's tough not think back to, say, Hood's fabric mix, where the beats banged just as hard but the emphasis was on timbre and layering, and the tracks were often groovy and rough around the edges. The difference could be summed up by that classic piece of writing advice: show don't tell. Put another way, let our minds drift to the club rather than demanding it. DJ-Kicks arrives at an interesting moment for Hood. Through his hugely popular Floorplan project, which has brought gospel music and Christian messages to largely secular audiences, Hood has sounded as singular as he did when he wrote the blueprint for minimal techno back in 1994. But as the white noise whooshes and the snares roll on Adrian Hour's "Make You Feel Good" (a track that was released on Toolroom four years ago), it's difficult not to sense an artist also drifting in the opposite direction, towards a sound that he'd struggle to call his own.
  • Tracklist
      01. Connected (Intro) 02. Robert Hood - Focus (DJ-Kicks) 03. Truncate - Terminal 5 04. Slam - Remain 05. Robert Hood - Clocks 06. Marcel Fengler – Thwack 07. Mark Broom - King (Gary Beck Remix) 08. Robert Hood - Greytype I 09. Robert Hood - Mirror Man 10. Stare5 - We Will Not 11. Gary Beck - Video Siren 12. Mark Reeve - Dice 13. Robert Hood - Bond Solid / Robert Hood – Solid Thought / Robert Hood – The Bond We Formed 14. Landside - Signs of Change (Robert Hood Remix) 15. Adrian Hour - Make You Feel Good 16. Ben Long & Tom Hades - The Knight Rider 17. Clouds - Chained to A Dead Camel 18. Hans Bouffmyere & Kyle Geiger - Inwards 19. Robert Hood - Machineform / Robert Hood – Red Machine / Robert Hood - Form 20. Robert Hood - Hall of Mirrors 21. Oliver Deutschmann - Confuzed 22. Matrixxman - Protocol