With his latest full-length, techno pioneer Robert Hood returns to his true-form minimal techno—a style the producer is often credited with inventing.
Nearly twenty-five years after emerging as a pioneering techno artist, making his name as a central figure in Underground Resistance, Robert Hood remains one of the most in demand DJs in the world. He lives a double life: one, as an ordained minister in rural Alabama; another, as a strobe-lit, globe-trotting selector. Those identities converge in his project Floorplan, in which he makes stomping gospel-house alongside his daughter. (Hood once said with Floorplan, “God literally told me, ‘I want you to put a gospel message in the music.’”) But Hood’s signature arpeggiated techno loops play out in his work under his own name. The Detroit-bred producer has fine-tuned his recipe for making bodies move, and his touring schedule remains rigorous; he plays to packed clubs and thousands-strong festival crowds almost every weekend. It’s befuddling that Hood manages any studio time in between.
Paradygm Shift is the second full-length record from Hood in as many years, following 2016’s Floorplan record Victorious. As Robert Hood, his tracks are monochrome and more skeletal than the flashy, big-room house of Floorplan. Paradygm Shift is a return for Hood to his true-form minimal techno—a style the producer is often credited with inventing on his landmark 1994 album Minimal Nation. Cuts from that record, like “Acrylic,” “Ride,” and “Unix,” are masterworks of efficiency and bear the gold standard of stripped-down dance music. Then and now, Hood’s subtle tweaks and variations make the sequenced synthesizers come alive; the ever-present, pounding kick drum is a militant metronome that Hood abuses gracefully as his melodies slide into morphing grooves between the beats. This is capital-T Techno that’s psychedelic straight to its mechanical core.
“I Am” has a bouncing, hypnotic funk that hearkens back to Minimal Nation most directly. Gently rising chords are filtered down to their deepest, lowest frequencies. As Hood builds the track, the chords grow menacing, distorting and slipping between beats. There’s an illusory effect to these mutations, as micro-shifts between the interlocking rhythms keep the track in perpetual motion—simultaneously rising and falling.
“Nephesh” offers a dubbier, rounder sound, with a gentle two-chord progression quietly anchoring the spiraling stabs as Hood filters his synths nimbly. “Thought Process” is sharp and punchy, as a kick drum awkwardly tries to slink into the groove in the track’s final turn. “Pattern 8” has a slippery feel, and the clanking bell melody is locked to a 12-step sequence that is constantly shifting between measures. It’s a technique that is quintessential to his style, but relying on a workhorse sequencing method, “Pattern 8” feels like Hood is riding on auto pilot.
Hood’s enduring genius has been his ability to take listeners from Point A to Point B in his tracks without realizing how he took you there. On Paradygm Shift, he forgoes the lean machine of Minimal Nation for a more immediate and voracious, full-body sound. Hood said of this record that he wanted to “reiterate Robert Hood as an electronic music artist who is bringing minimalism back in the forefront, and not to get lost in the melody.” For Hood’s fans, this ambition is certainly welcome—but wanting to reinvent the wheel on Paradygm Shift, he falters with uninspired execution. Still, Hood’s dedication to precisely-crafted techno and transcendent DJ sets proves he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.