Thursday, June 16, 2005

(Review) Hood - Outside Closer

The truly wonderful Hood, in various guises, have been perfecting their monochromatic, bleak, frosty Yorkshire landscape of a sound for the past 15 years or so. Starting out, possibly the lowest of lo-fi, they have over the course of 6 albums and a myriad of singles carefully moulded and shaped their own image of the perfect evocation of their own environment. They share some common ground with other fellow travellers like Movietone and Crescent, but for my money they are ploughing their own lonely furrow and I wouldn't wish it any other way. No one else can soundtrack the sun slowly rising over a frosty mist-laden moor like them - the slow sense of anticipation; the crisp sense of clarity; the gradual transformation. These are their tools along with drums, bass, gtr, samples and endless friends just adding that tiny ingredient to achieve the right balance.

This album, their sixth, is outstanding if only for the sudden washes of colour, slightly quicker tempo and on some tracks the feeling that spring has arrived early. Catching them live at the Cube in Bristol was a revelation, fleshed out to a five piece, there was an extra dynamic, which is more than apparent on this LP. From the nine tracks the only common threads are the wonderful subtle, kinetic drumming and the trademark fragile yet emotive semi-spoken vocals.

In some respects this album bears comparisons with Califone in the way that many seemingly disparate elements make up each song. 'The Negatives' finds room for Spanish gtr and accordion, whereas 'Any Hopeful Thoughts Arrive' has a lovely sinuous clarinet line, evolving into distant trumpet and violin coda, the whole song becoming drunken and woozy with the sheer weight of sounds.

'End of One Train Working' finds us on more familiar ground. A simple de-tuned gtr, cello and handclapping frame the forlorn vocals pitifully asking, "Where is the hope I had". Their great skill in dressing sad and sometimes desperate lyrics is shown to good effect on side two's opener 'The Lost You', a paean to the passing of time with a remarkably upbeat backing packed with samples and cut-up rhythms. There is something so winning about a lyricist who makes no effect to dilute what needs to be said by attempting to rhyme words.

All thru the album words just trail like steam, meandering around the instruments, as in 'Still Rain Fell', the snatches of violin, the gtr chops and echoing drums escort the vocals towards the mournful piano intro of 'Fading Hills' which with the warm gtr washes and trumpet evoke sunset over a town, looking down hill into the distance as the orange fades.

Perhaps in these days of homogenisation, part of Hood's charm is their innate, unforced Englishness. Wistful yearning and wasted time bob in and out of the imagery along with the cellos and piano of 'Closure'. Hood are a band we should all cherish. There is nobody like them, unafraid to do what is necessary to document what is in their heads. This album is possibly the most fully realised so far and every home, English or not should have one.

By Mr Olivetti

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