Robert Hood: Motor: Nighttime World 3
Robert Hood's Motor: Nighttime World 3 can be experienced in multiple ways, but two in particular stand out: on purely sonic grounds as an endlessly resourceful exploration of artful future-techno or on related thematic grounds as an extended meditation on Detroit's history, from the status it once enjoyed as a major industrial force to its current dilapidated state and the possible rebirth looming on the horizon (in their presented sequence, the track titles also convey the project's narrative trajectory). As a founding member, along with Jeff Mills and Mike Banks, of the Underground Resistance label, Hood, of course, needs no introduction, but suffice it to say he's one of those responsible for Detroit techno in its fundamental form. His expansive vision is well-documented, too, in the large number of full-lengths, singles, and EPs he's issued since 1994, many of them on his own M-Plant imprint.
Drawing inspiration from Julien Temple's documentary Requiem For Detroit?, this third chapter in the series follows the first installment issued on Austria's Cheap label in 1995 and its 2000 follow-up on M-Plant. Whereas Temple's film finds downtown Detroit in a state of relative collapse, a shell of its former self (what was once the fourth-largest city in the US has seen forty square miles of its inner city 139 reclaimed by nature, for example), Hood views the city as a site ripe for rebirth, a metropolis of abandoned office towers and auto plants broken but not beaten. In his own words, “To make a new future, Detroit needs to look deep within to be able to see a new vision and thrive once more. As long as there is a seed, there is hope.”
That spirit is reflected in the music, which bursts with vitality and purpose in its synthetic whooshes, silken washes, gleaming pads, and, of course, pulsating beats. In the way the endlessly burbling material wends a forceful, determined path for eleven minutes, “Black Technician” might just as easily refer to the Detroit worker as Hood himself, while the strike of an anvil punctuating dramatic strings during “Learning” also alludes to the growth of industry. Elements of funk and house seep into “Torque One,” after which “Hate Transmissions,” airlifted by ringing ride cymbals and clattering snares, digs into ten fulminating minutes of classic acid-techno. The downtempo jazz-funk setting “Slow Motion Katrina” exudes a somewhat despairing tone in its combination of pitch-shifting synth waves and plucked kalimba patterns; by comparison, “A Time To Rebuild” is buoyed by exuberance and drive. Though the recording presents a self-contained portrait of Hood's artistry, the shimmering synth waves in “Better Life” can't help but draw a line connecting his music to Kraftwerk's, while the high-velocity attack powering “Drive (The Age Of Automation)” likewise reveals affinities between the two artists.
The recording's dozen tracks present an entire library of synthetic sounds, making Motor: Nighttime World 3 something of a defining collection on sonic grounds. Whether broached on purely musical terms or as an ambitious thematic statement, it's the work of someone at the top of his game, able to spin endlessly resourceful variations on his chosen themes.