Robert Hood: Omega: Alive
Oftentimes visions of the future are dystopic in nature, an understandable move given the degree to which we experience the unrelenting and oft-discomfiting infiltration of technology into our lives. Images of ruined cityscapes come to mind when the word "post-apocalyptic" is mentioned, and that's pretty much consistent with the scene depicted on the cover of Robert Hood's latest opus, Omega: Alive. But the music itself is something else altogether: rather than being suggestive of a collapsing civilization, the album's tracks are models of technological perfection alluding to a future society where the machines have not only taken over but are managing things with a level of efficiency and exactitude beyond the reach of human beings. His image of the future, then, isn't one filled with fear and trepidation; if anything, his is utopian in character, a vision that foresees a gleaming paradise that is more properly a vision of the here-and-now—at least insofar as his music is concerned—as his idealized tomorrow is already here.
But if Omega: Alive's music suggests some perfected state, its cover illustration of an overturned car and destroyed buildings certainly suggests otherwise. What's needed, however, to bring the picture into clearer focus is familiarity with the album's backstory: Omega: Alive is designed as a live presentation of Omega, the album Hood issued last year as a musical treatment of the post-apocalyptic 1971 film, The Omega Man, which finds Charlton Heston fighting for survival as the last man on earth. But the new album is more than just a live take on the earlier album, as Hood adds new tracks (“Minimal, Minimal,” “Bells At Dusk,” “Run”) and reworks of past recordings (“Who Taught You Math?,” “Unix,” “Side Effect”) to the mix while also being careful to preserve the overall post-apocalyptic vibe of the album. In additon, a previously unreleased cut (“Atomic”) is included along with tracks from a recent M-Plant twelve-inch (a James Ruskin remix of “Alpha” plus “The Family”).
Opener “Bells At Dusk” solidly sets the album's machine-driven tone with a relentless eleven-minute salvo Hood powers with pounding drums, even if he smartly lessens the track's lazer-focused intensity by allowing an occasional piano run to add a bit of humanity. Without interruption, the music segues into “Run,” which unspools with unwavering high-velocity thrust, and then “Alpha: Alive,” where a voice repeatedly utters “Detroit” alongside a throbbing tribal pulse—not that any clarification of the music's essence is needed (as if to hammer the point home even more vociferously, the voice re-emerges during the later “Unix: Alive”). Hood bolsters the material's appeal by draping synth sparkle overtop and in so doing turns the material into something more than a raw, rhythm-based throwdown. As the album unfolds, it establishes a marked DJ feel, with most tracks bleeding smoothly into one another (the three bonus tracks the exception) and ultimately playing like a club set than a listening album whose tracks are designed to be heard separately.
Hood seemingly has no qualms about embracing the minimal label that's typically applied to his music, given the looped title refrain that courses so insistently through “Minimal, Minimal” as an anchor for the mutating percussive flourishes that emerge alongside it. It doesn't take much to picture the track blazing through the night air at a Detroit outdoor festival, with thousands of bodies responding to the tune's rave fever. Though indexed pauses separate the closing tracks from the earlier eight and from each other, the three closers perpetuate the precision-tooled makeup of the material appearing before and so don't diminish the mood created by the “live” set. Ablaze with a sleek and repetitive flow of beats and claps, the three distill the essence of minimal techno into a single, twenty-minute package. Put simply, any listener wanting a state-of-the-art example of futuristic Detroit techno in its classic form would be hard pressed to find a better recording for that purpose than Omega: Alive. It's a thoroughly rave-ready battalion of pounding kick drums and hi-hats that celebrates its minimal character without apology.