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  • Filed under: Review
  • 07/02/2013

Floorplan Paradise

Last year, Robert Hood released the latest in a series of jazz-influenced concept albums, Motor: Nighttime World 3. For the producer, who'd been both lionized and dismissed over the course of his career as the minimal-techno archetype, Motor's lushness affirmed that his music appealed as much for its basic soulfulness as its ascetic sound design. Floorplan is Hood's outlet for his more overtly humanistic side—disco, techno, house, and gospel are fused with expert alchemy on this debut album, which combines new material and tracks from a couple of earlier Floorplan EPs. On the surface, the Floorplan project incorporates uncharacteristically organic sounds, including vocals, but the underlying logic remains recognizably Hood. Paradise is hard and iridescent, as if the Alabama-based producer is hauling Motor's dark luster into the daylight. The loops are still hard-edged and blunt, creating taut grooves that hit their cues a fraction of a second early.

For the most part, Paradise bends to the precision of techno, but as with all of Hood's work, these tracks are roomy on the inside because of the strict design. Eight-bar loops seem lengthy here, but the vibes are expansive; the energy is unflagging but never overwhelming. Hood's music usually gets over on his mastery of human-machine tension, and Floorplan offers his most expressive material, literalizing that tension in a way that's often calibrated for serious dancefloor damage. The exuberant piano house of "Confess" makes it Paradise's most celebratory moment—a degree of cold precision keeps it sounding well manicured, but the abruptness also lends the piano and toms emotional, even spiritual heft. The single-minded "Baby Baby," with its severe, trippy samples, even anticipates the lo-fi sample cubism of contemporary Detroit producers like Kyle Hall.

Still, Floorplan isn't an excuse for Hood to indulge an underrepresented side of himself—it's more of an exercise in applying his usual discipline to a warmed-up set of sounds. Working with a slightly different set of constraints, Hood clears the hurdles Floorplan sets up effortlessly. "Altered Ego" vigorously takes the bottle service out of tech house, even managing to make the overfamiliar sound of metallic chord stabs interesting again thanks to its popping snares. On "Never Grow Old," however, Hood loosens his control, tearing the roof off by simply following the gospel sample's lead. Other tracks are exercises in techno just outside of Hood's signature style—"Eclipse" comes across as an energetic relative of Prologue's minimalist pulses.

Paradise is soberly composed, but tracks like "Let's Ride," "Baby Baby," and "Confess" still have an ecstatic glow. Like the Nighttime World series, Floorplan forces you to hear Hood's other music differently—or at least makes it easier to locate the human interest in his more alien-sounding output. From a distance, Paradise continues to connect the dots of Hood's career, but up close, it's completely absorbing.

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