An affectionately remembered landscape of American suburbia with an unforgettable warmth.
Hood remains an enigmatic and largely unknown figure—Neighborhoods was his only album, and he pressed it himself in limited quantities. He had played in jazz groups with his brother Bill and the renowned band leader and saxophonist Charlie Barnet. But in the early '50s he contracted polio, which resulted in a year-long stint in an iron lung; he relied on a wheelchair to get around. Confined to Portland, Hood started experimenting with field recordings, slowly gathering the material that would imbue Neighborhoods with such indelible sepia tones.
The album depicts a series of American suburban idylls. The majority of "At The Store" is a conversation between two boys at a shop, then on a porch, as cars pass on the street, all of which is bookended by a lilting keyboard melody. "After School" begins with pitch-bent synth notes, which fade as children mockingly sing to the tune of "Ring A Ring O' Roses." "August Haze," a languid track of crickets, shimmering strings and yet more scrawling electronics, reminds us that Hood was living through the twinkling cosmic jazz of Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. But Hood's perspective is less celestial; it has the cosiness of fading sunlight in a backyard.
What's striking about Neighborhoods is not only its fusion of proto-ambient, jazz, and musique concrète, but Hood's own steadfast commitment to exploring "memories of time past." Each recording appears carefully chosen for its emotional resonance, like the funfair sounds and fireworks found on "Night Games." Often, you sense that the environmental sounds came first, with the music scored around them.
"The games we played, the mocks, the terminology and the feelings we experienced as youngsters are tantalizingly familiar," wrote Hood. "If I didn't exactly capture your territorial terms forgive me and just let the mood suffice." Hood does himself a disservice, because the album is more than just a collection of moods, however lovely and life-affirming. Listening to Neighborhoods feels like thinking of a memory for the first time.