Music Man Records will release 'Motor: Nighttime World 3' on 17 September 2012.
The third chapter of a series born in 1995 sees Robert Hood roused to action by the documentary Requiem for Detroit?. In response to the film’s narrative, Motor: Nighttime World 3 muses on the chronology of Hood’s hometown, from its former glories as an automobile heavyweight; to its alarming decay and finally, potential for renaissance. As Hood puts it: “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.”
The general tone here is thus suitably evocative, and those expecting the usual fare of Hood’s fiercely spare, loopy Detroit techno will be surprised. Continuing in the vein of previous instalments, Motor largely relays Hood’s mellower side with poignant electronics foregrounded over percussive dancefloor ingredients.
‘Better Life’, for one, teems with optimism and resolve in its glossy shades and twinkling keys.
Meanwhile, theatrical strings prance around the distant striking of metal in ‘Learning’, a possible ode to the bloom of industry in Detroit.
Elsewhere, downtempo-jazz-burner ‘Slow Motion Katrina’ subtly radiates nervous melancholy in its tandem of pitch-morphing pads and kalimba motifs.
On the other end of the emotional spectrum, album closer ‘Time to Rebuild’ signs off on a chirpier streak, with Hood affirming Detroit’s neglected factories and warehouses as ripe for renewal.
Thematic presentation aside, Motor also stands as an updated survey of Hood’s skilled techno-making, and perhaps a sonic statement issued by the prototypical minimal man himself. Back in 2001, he described minimal techno’s raison d’être as such:
“Detroit has to maintain its roots... We are talking soul, reality, just the realness. The music was getting too belligerent, too ravey, too circus-like. You know, lights, lasers, smoke and not the reality, no kind of social commentary. Marvin Gaye, Martin Luther King Jr, we've got to take it that way... I have to champion Detroit. Yes, soul, funk and just rhythm.
What I've always wanted to hear: the basic stripped down, raw sound. Just drums, basslines and funky grooves and only what's essential. Only what is essential to make people move... their butts, speaking to their heart, mind and soul.” (via Spannered)
Twelve years on, Hood’s declarations seem to ring truer than ever. And with Motor, he again upholds a revival of Detroit techno’s roots, by maintaining loyalty to the retrofuturist reality of the genre’s beginnings: “soul, funk and rhythm”; ”only what’s essential”.
It must be observed, however, that Hood’s minimal aesthetic bears zero resemblance to the modern day notion of beeps and clicks, instead aligning itself with the intricacy of classic Minimalism founded by Reich, Glass et al. His techno stresses minimal design, not minimal substance - with shapes that accumulate rather than advance. Take the polyrhythmic twists and turns in tracks like ‘Slow Motion Katrina’ and ‘Hate Transmissions’, the latter’s pealing, rattling drums slipping and sliding over ten minutes of seemingly straight-up acid-techno.
Still, to the unobsessed ear and less pretentious mind, it’s less obviously ‘minimal’ than the other 4/4 efforts here (also across his recent singles), not least the elegantly spartan slice of krautechno that is ‘Drive (The Age of Automation)’. Basic variation, displaced accents, effects and few other adornments power this thoroughly excellent example of less-is-more:
On a final note, it is worth considering if Hood’s brand of minimal hints at an underlying anxiety over the role of machines in the producer’s as well as his hometown’s DNA. Does his desire to trim and prune suggest a suspicion of circuits, chips, engines and assembly-line contraptions? When the mechanical can make a din of every frequency and jam every inch of ground with pollution, perhaps it is within the margins of moderation that both Robert Hood and his beloved Detroit can find “new vision” to flourish and “make a new future” with.