If one were to describe Hood in just one word, it would be "change." After spending the better part of the 90's releasing obscure, somewhat confounding and often beautiful singles and tapes with anyone who started to mutter "so, do you wanna do a..." From lo-fi to no-fi, from full color artwork to photocopied and pasted sleeves and, even, a sandwich bag, nothing was too much, or too small, for Hood.
Then, all of a sudden, Hood went silent. After releasing the utterly beautiful the cycles of days and seasons in 1999...nothing. Very few singles, even fewer live shows, and a shroud of mystery seemed to indicate that the band had seen its end.
Who could have blamed them, though, for ceasing their cottage industry of releases, especially when it seemed nobody was listening? It wasn't until earlier this year that Hood released a new recording for mass consumption, an EP entitled Home is Where It Hurts. This EP had few hints of the lo-fi "glory" days, and seemed to point the band to a newer direction. Instead of lo-fi guitar and tape effects, Hood turned their aesthetic towards homemade electronica--much to their benefit. The darkness that bled onto the recorder for years seemed to click with the coldness of electronica's heart.
Enter Cold House. Continuing on the same path as Home is Where it Hurts, Cold House has seemingly adapted their new-found sound quite well. What hasn't been lost, however, is the homegrown feel of the bedroom. With the beginning track, "They Removed All Trace That Anything Had Happened Here," one can feel the warmth of the coldness in Hood's heart. With electronic blips and chirps over a sad guitar and strings backing and monotone, sad vocals, you realize that this is the same Hood from years before, except that this time, they've spent a lot of time at work on the production. Then, unexpectedly--you're hit by jibber-jabber vocals, done by Dose One and Why?, which, upon first listen, are quite shocking to hear. They appear on two other songs, "Branches Bare" and the excellent finale, "You're Worth the Whole World," and that element adds a whole other dimension to ambient music as we know it--and I have this feeling that we'll be seeing more jabber on future Hood releases, which would only be a good development.
After a few spins of Cold House, one gets the notion that Hood are a band that like to make "wrong" music. For instance, "The River Curls Around the Town." It's a beautiful, ambient track, yet, upon first listen, you'd be well tempted to check your player, to see if something was wrong with your player or your record. Then, you wonder, why would they intentionally screw up what is ultimately a beautiful song? Methinks that, secretly, Hood enjoy a laugh or two, and confounding their audience is simply par for the course. I think it has somewhat to do with "art" but methinks there's a humor element at play as well.
Of course, one really shouldn't be surprised by anything that Hood does anymore. Cold House is the ultimate realization of the bands past, tempered with a healthy dose of what the future will look like. Could we be wrong? possibly. Would the future be anything quite as stunning as Cold House? I'd bet the farm on it. Another fine, fine album for Hood, and quietly one of the best records of the year? I'm sure Hood wouldn't want it any other way.