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  • Filed under: Review
  • 05/30/2013

Robert Hood Black Technician (UR Mad Mike Remixes)

Robert Hood's Motor: Nighttime World 3 LP from last year solidified a sound the producer had been working toward for some time. Hood remains best known for pioneering a starkly minimal take on second-wave Detroit techno, modifying his predecessors' futurist inclinations into brutally mechanical, subtly modulating grooves. As Hood has aged, he has incorporated a greater degree of musicianship, and his sound has grown richer as a result—it no longer recalls a relentless factory production line. Theorists might point to Detroit's decline as an industrial center or Hood's relocation to rural Alabama as influences, but in either case, the artist's newly fleshed-out sound is exemplified on Motor's "Black Technician." Now, the track has been singled out and joined by remixes from fellow second-wave luminary "Mad" Mike Banks, who works alongside his Underground Resistance comrades Skurge and Ray 7 and respected hip-hop producer Waajeed.

"Black Technician" goes on for 11 minutes, which is long even by Hood's standards. It's a complex piece full of jacking drums, squelchy synthesizer, and tingling chimes, but is marked most of all by its exploratory aspects. Although the track begins with a typically sparse chapter, it stacks elements as it goes, and somewhere around its midpoint it begins to feel almost jazzy with its loose interplay. Minimal techno it is not—at least not by the artist's definition. The "UR Mad Mike" remix, which features Skurge and Ray 7, takes on more of a classic Hood vibe. After a long introduction of dramatic synth strings, Banks launches into a tightly sequenced arrangement led by tough kicks, rigid bass, and watery stabs, all of which are enhanced only by the most limited of additions (though the strings make a reappearance). It's a welcome reduction, disciplining Hood's reflective original and putting its elements to work in a more high-stakes setting.

Even more impressive is the prospect of Banks teaming up with Waajeed (born Robert O'Bryant) on the "DirtTech UR Remix." Like Dilla or Dabrye, O'Bryant has long incorporated elements of Detroit's techno legacy into his beats, and he is a solid complement to Banks. (The two appeared together on last year's Electric Street Orchestra EP, and this remix continues to make good on their pairing.) If Underground Resistance is known for a certain brand of "hi-tech jazz," one could think of this collaboration as "hi-tech funk." The duo deploys a mostly gestural acid bassline that nevertheless dominates the track, seemingly absorbing the murmured vocal declarations ("I am a black technician") amid syncopated snare rolls. It only lasts three minutes, but it marks a colorful finish to an EP by a producer who once seemed to only work in monochrome.

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