The past few years have seen Robert Hood on the receiving end of justified acclaim for a string of releases (including 2009's re-issue of Minimal Nation and 2010's Omega) that culminated in last year's superb Nighttime World 3, an acclaim that translated into its inclusion in multiple year-end lists. Hood now returns with an equally strong follow-up, though one under a different alias: Floorplan. It's not a new moniker—the dancefloor alias has been in play since his Funky Souls EP appeared in 1996—, but it is Hood's debut long-player under the name. What distinguishes the project from material issued under his real name is that, in contrast to the hard minimal techno of the latter, Floorplan's focus is house music sweetened with disco, funk, and gospel. Some of Paradise will be familiar to long-time Hood devotees, as tracks are included that originally appeared on the EPs Living It Up, Sanctified, and last year's Altered Ego. No matter: it's wonderful to have the material collected in a full album format where it can hit with the greatest possible cumulative force.
In a typical Floorplan cut, the beat locks into position with a machine-like precision, a move that gives the other elements latitude to move more freely. As an example, the opener, “Let's Ride,” plays like a call to arms in both its title and kinetic drive. Hood's artistry is immediately evident in the way he builds the track up and then just as rapidly strips it down, and alternates between them with the intuitive command of a master. The combination of jackrabbit snares, dizzying vocal loops, and punishing pulse is a potent one, and the listener comes away from the track stunned by its relentless attack. Hood's arranging skills are likewise displayed in “Baby Baby” when the repeating title snippet is accompanied by a slamming, bass-powered disco groove and funk guitar riffs that would do James Brown proud. Powered by a ferocious chug, a bright piano figure also helps turn “Confess” into one of the album's most uplifting outings. The lines separating the music released under Hood's real name and Floorplan blur in some tracks, with an occasional Paradise track (e.g., “Change,” “Eclipse,” “Chord Principle”) sounding like it could just as easily be featured on a regular Hood release.
It's all impeccably crafted stuff, but to these ears the album's go-to piece is undeniably the spirit-raising stormer “Never Grow Old,” which blazes a gospel-inflected trail that's frankly awesome, especially when the possessed wail of the singer, egged on by her listeners' exhortations, is factored into the equation. In addition to astutely noting that Floorplan “could well be seen as Robert Hood's vision as seen through a house music prism,” the press release is correct in contending that Floorplan, which began as a side-project, is so strong a project that it could, if not overshadow, then at least challenge the music Hood releases under his own name for recognition.