his, the debut CD release by Robert Hood under the moniker of Monbox, is a collection of new and old tracks recorded by the renowned minimal techno producer. And, with any collection of new and old, the quality of the release wavers heavily between boring and engaging. Luckily, Hood’s production skills are first rate- and the duds here are few and far between.
The first hypnotic highlight is “Realm 2,” which mixes simple techno bass with a warm clanking of metal and a relatively undeveloped dubby melodic line that appears every so often to break up the monotony. The track works as well in headphones, as you might imagine on the dancefloor, revealing a complex minimalism which keeps the listener engaged much longer than it takes for them to identify all of the elements presented.
Similarly, “Population” (which has already been released as a 12” on M-Plant), is at once extremely simple and endlessly interesting. The track almost approaches a Schaffel beat but retains the four-four hegemony of techno. The use of sound, however, is very reminiscent of Thomas Fehlmann’s “Gratis” and contains an extremely hypnotic bell sound in the background which fills up much of the low end of the track. It is perhaps the busiest of the productions on the album working more of a swing into its rhythmic structure.
But the true highlight of the album comes with “The Diamond Age,” which oddly enough sounds much more like early Autechre or Posthuman than any other obvious antecedents to Hood’s brand of minimal techno. The track rides a squiggly melodic line and a quietly seductive smattering of sounds that slowly build into a substantively complex beat. The two note synth line barely makes sense when it first comes into the mix, but falls directly and sweetly into place once the beat makes its full emergence. If any track deserves to be heard on this release, it is this one.
But do the others hold up in comparison? It can be argued that “The Diamond Age” acts as the outlier and should be shunned for its distinctiveness- but that would be missing the point. These tracks are all outliers. Hood’s album is merely a collection of tunes, showcasing his wares to DJs and the public at the same time. Not much cohesion among these tracks is had- it’s all techno, surely, but little more can be said to hold it together. And, as such, the albums does not succeed as a single listen- its success, however, can be traced to Hood’s embrace of different styles and techniques of production. For that, he should be commended. For the consumer? Try before you buy.