Unfortunately life and music seldom play out like a PR story. Robert Hood says he is still “embracing minimalism and seeing how far I can push it” but it’s not a minimalism that many people today would recognize, as it includes disco samples and has neither ping-pong effects nor reverbed snares.
The briefest listen to Fabric 39 immediately communicates how the meaning of ‘minimal’ has changed: Today when we think minimal we think ‘just beats’ but what Hood thinks is ‘repetition’.
So it’s not really minimal, but it’s definitely techno. Hood doesn’t fuck about and after a brief five minutes or so of melodic teasing we get straight to the hard, fast 4/4 beats. The mixes come fast, abrupt (and occasionally sloppy) in the Detroit style and the tracks are loopy, beaty and aggressive. This makes for a mix that is unquestionably taking the “this is what my live sets sound like” route, rather than going for a more living-room oriented sound.
I’ve not heard Robert Hood play for a good few years now, but if this is what his live sets currently sound like then he certainly hasn’t mellowed with age. It feels less like the tracks are being mixed together, and more like they’re being hurled at the dancefloor in quick succession. This makes for some great moments, like when Joris Voorn’s hypnotic ‘Fever’ suddenly cuts out to make way for the looped, filtered disco of Fab G’s ‘Bust the Vibes’.
But don’t be misled into thinking that means there’s no mixing involved, quite the opposite. Hood pretty much always has two records on the go. Like his long-time collaborator Jeff Mills he treats records as tools and components to be reassembled into a new whole. Fabric 39 is not up there with Live at the Liquid Room as a piece of technical wizardry, but it is definitely more than the sum of its parts.
In its best moments, this mix is a great summation of a particularly hardy and long-lived style of Detroit techno, the kind with fast pummeling beats, short loops and a punchy, urban feel. It doesn’t want to gently seduce you into dancing, it wants to beat you into submission and then jiggle your limp limbs like a puppet on a string. Particularly noteworthy cuts are the echoing warehouse feel of Mion’s ‘Drop the Filter’ which is some of the grimiest techno I’ve heard in a long time and Robert Hood’s own, beautifully simple ‘Element 7’.
Hood thankfully also understands the limitations of this style and punctuates long stretches of tune-free percussion with either disco loops like ‘Bust the Vibes’ and ‘Pulp Funktion 2’ or, towards the end of the CD, with more anthemic modern techno like Scorp’s ‘New Energy’ or UK Gold’s ‘Agent Wood’.
What this isn’t is a showcase of a new and exciting scene. It sticks to the basics, uses a few older tunes and a few newer ones and basically gives a primer on Robert Hood. If you’re already a fan there’s not much here that’s going to surprise you. If you’re not so familiar this is as a good an introduction as any to both Robert Hood and the classic second-wave Detroit style.