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Hood - Outside Closer

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Artist: Hood

Album: Outside Closer

Label: Domino

Review date: Feb. 16, 2005

Hood’s sixth full-length is both an assimilation and a revisitation. From its mid-’90s debut Cabled Linear Traction, the Leeds-based quartet has followed a consistent path further and further away from the grungy “lo-fi” pop ambience that pervades its early material. A plethora of singles and compilation tracks blaze a more experimental and consequently more circuitous trail, but comprehensive listening shows the same embracing of the jazzy textures which inform Cycle of Days and Seasons, followed by electronic abstraction, ala their 2001 album Cold House; indeed, some of Cycle’s mellow airiness persists in the rhythmically and melodically challenging techno-rock atmospheres of that rewarding if somewhat mystifying effort.

Acoustic instruments make their return on Outside Closer, but this is only a small part of Hood’s revamped soundworld. Where previous efforts delineated clearly between electronics and more conventional sonorities, the two spheres of influence have now been melded, and it is often no mean feat to discern samples from live playing. Granted, the punchy polyrhythmic short, sharp shocks of Cold House rear their heads – opening the single “The Lost You” with a rhythmic nod to both house and disco complemented by old-school stuttered vocals. Similarly, a potentially mundane moment of vocal harmony halfway through “End of One Train Working” is rendered stark and inventive by gating and looping.

These are isolated moments, and the rest of the disc is an almost constant wash of sounds, many of them indistinguishable. Cross-faded strings, acoustic guitars and heavily reverbed voices provide the backdrop, ironically, for some of Hood’s most energetic and “poppy” tunes in some time. “(Int)” drives the point home; a fade-in of liquefied sonic debris lasting some 40 seconds gives way suddenly to “The Negatives,” a swinging finger-snapping tune whose apprehensively opaque lyrics and dreamy delivery can’t dull the track’s sunny mood and sharp hook. “The Lost You” – possibly the album’s masterpiece – follows suit, a streamlined but powerfully spacious beat opening the proceedings topped with sampled voices whose source becomes clear only at the track’s droney conclusion; the rare appearance of a cliché “postrock” guitar break gives “The Lost You” the raw power of early Hood while the sample-heavy texture keeps it firmly in the present.

Don’t be put off by the glossy patina; there’s a lot to hear on this record, as repeated listening makes plain. Each Hood disc has been great, and this newest offering is fast becoming one of my favorites.

By Marc Medwin

Other Reviews of Hood

The Lost You EP

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