March 13, 2003

Hood "Singles Compiled"

Semi-obscurity is never enough. When Hood released their excellent Cold House last year, their recognition level rose...just a little bit. True, they weren't made into instant indie-rock stars, but it's safe to say that they weren't as overlooked as they had been in the past. That their style had undergone an electronic metamorphisis only made their reception all the better--even if the sound seemed a bit colder, more distant, and less organic. You can't blame a band for wanting to rise from the indie-rock swamp, and Hood rose to the challenge, even if they have since distanced themselves from the lo-fi weirdness that marked their earlier works.

Listening to Singles Compiled, which starts with 1995's "A Harbor Of Thoughts" 7", you're struck by how far Hood have come since those obscure, lo-fi days. Those expecting the electronica atmospherics of Cold House and Home Is Where It Hurts might be a bit put off by the earlier sounds of Hood. Don't get me wrong; their early records, especially "Lee Faust's Million Piece Orchestra," have a certain charm, even if the best part of the song is the title. These songs range from acoustic ballads to weird bursts of noise and/or drum machine/synth bleats, and often all at once! The notion of a "song" is also rather fuzzy; when you're talking about more than five or six songs per seven inch record. Unlike Guided By Voices--the only other band who have constantly piled-on the music on their singles--Hood's songs aren't always cohesive; they can be nothing more than noodling or beats, and often these songs are indistinguishable from the others.

It's not until about 1998 that they started to really get more into the atmospheric styles of today, and even then, these are tempered with lo-fi weirdness that really don't quite stand the test of time. The brooding, synth-layered Hood doesn't really appear until "Impossible Calm" (on 1998's "(The) Weight"). When they released their two US singles, "Filmed Initiative" and "The Year Of The Occasional Lull" in 1998, that lo-fi weirdness had been replaced by a colder, more refined atmospheric sound, which certainly pointed the band towards the sounds that they're currently making. Unfortunatly, the set ends with these two transitional records, leaving the listener wanting more, and closing this chapter of Hood's existence right when they were becoming a lot more interesting--and releasing some beautiful records.

If you're not a fan of the weirder, shorter lo-fi experimental folk, then most of the unreleased tracks will probably not hold your interest. These are some very lo-fi songs, and have a lot more in common with Hood circa 1994-1997, though once again, there are hints at greater things, such as "Morpeth," "Killing The Band," and "To Emphasise Words," but these songs are simply brief moments, as opposed to longer, more substantial pieces. I don't really know when these pieces originate, so I'm only assuming that they're from Hood's formative years.

So is Singles Compiled a worthwhile collection? I think so. I know some people who swear by early Hood, and who think they've been going downhill since "I've Forgotten How To Live." I'll also say that I enjoyed earlier period Hood as well (as well as owning a few of these singles), but since their startling transformation into a really strong electronica-based group, I've had a harder time appreciating some of their earlier releases. Hood have certainly come a long, long way over the past decade, and Singles Compiled certainly documents some of that change. If you only learned of Hood in the past year, you would be forgiven if you were to assume that this Hood was an entirely different band. Listening to this collection, it's certainly worth arguing that they indeed were.

--Joseph Kyle

No comments: