Jeff Mills has had a hand in far more labels than Axis, Purpose Maker and the other imprints he has his name on. His was the invisible hand that guided Tresor and corrected its course when it infamously strayed – and not so much through direct intervention as much as a word of caution or praise from a man whose taste is nearly as renown as his DJ skills. Ordinarily a quiet and unassuming man, Mills is capable of withering criticism when it comes to music, and from all accounts is a fervent believer in the notion promoted by high school coaches and guidance counselors everywhere that from whom much is given, much is expected.
“The cake is not quite done,” is how Robert Hood remembers it – the phrase Mills would fall back on when a track that passed before him in their Underground Resistance days didn’t match his expectations. I think most of us still have the judgment of a stern mentor in mind when we create something. A whole generation of producers probably still asks “Will Ronnie play this?” when they make a new track, two decades after Ron Hardy passed away.
So there’s a reason why M-Plant has never had the claustrophobic, rather insular feeling of many other labels devoted to the output of a single artist. While M-Plant is entirely Robert Hood’s show now (other artists did make appearances in the label’s early days), he’s had that discriminating angel whispering in his ear at least at the start, when he struck off on his own from UR, urging him to trim a branch here, prune a hedge over here, to let this branch overgrow and see what comes up in the spring.
Hood released several remixes and edits from the back catalog earlier this year, dubbing them “re-plants” in the horticultural sense. It’s an appropriate metaphor for what an incredible garden Mr. Hood has grown. This catalog made up of these songs is responsible for some of the most exhilarating musical journeys of my life. How does his entire career stack up as an “album”?
Pretty damn well, actually. A three CD set, M-Print showcases the unfathomable dynamism of Robert Hood’s music. The tracks that marked the dawn of “Minimal Nation” exist side-by-side on this record, breathing the same air as the “techno gospel” of “Never Grow Old” from Hood’s Floorplan project. “Protein Valve” (here in both original and “re-planted” form) still shimmers all these years later – it’s a minor digression, but tracks like these really bring home how ahead of his time Robert Hood has been.
Hood is, to my mind, electronic music’s premiere album-oriented artist – I really can’t separate some of the tracks of Omega from the rest of the tracks on Omega – but these sorts of records aren’t made for someone who follows an artist on that obsessive level. Short of compressing all of his albums down to fit on a single disc (including the ones from Hood released on other labels), this is about the best guided tour you’re going to get.