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Monobox – Forwardbase Kodai (M-Plant)

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So, as I’m sure you’re aware – Robert Hood is pretty much a ‘household name’ amongst Detroit techno aficionados, and even techno lovers in general. His lesser known Monobox pseudonym, however, is a different story.

The Monobox moniker originally emerged in 1996 on Hood’s own M-Plant label with a series of EPs and later an album for Logistic, out of France. The Monobox sound is focussed on a more ‘alien’, futuristic kind of vibe (some adjectives that this reviewer personally thinks could easily be applied to Hood’s own sound, although the Monobox stuff is a different kind of ‘alien’, if you get my drift. This is, in fact, distinctive) and brings with it a sense of something epic, something huge – this is not so minimal in that sense. This release paves the way for a Monobox album, already scheduled for release in November - and is already something I’m already looking forward to – greatly.

The title track is a brooding, tense number – building in waves of vibrant, incandescent pads and scintillating, keys, intertwining, progressively layering, bringing with them a rolling sensation, as the tension builds irresistibly. This really does not sound much like anything I’ve heard before – original and engrossing, the more than six minutes duration feels like it’s over in half the time. This pulls you in and you lose all sense of time and space.

On remix duties are Hood himself and one of the UK’s finest; Ø [Phase]. Let’s focus on Phase first. Fans of his sound will definitely not be disappointed, all the elements are there – it’s more up-tempo and repetitive and therein lies the key for a more aggressive, and intense experience. Structured, percussive elements power the swirling rushes of unsettling atmospherics combining to deliver a deeply energizing powerhouse of a remix which holds enough of the original track to qualify as a remix, albeit with some phrasing all its own.

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Hood’s ‘Re-Plant’ mix is also more up-tempo than the original mix, firing on all cylinders. Hood manages to expand upon the ‘alien’ vibe of the original – the tension is palpable, and those pads are not of this realm. The stabby keys from the original are further twisted to great effect and there are some amazing turns in the drum-work here with some killer snares reminiscent of old-school DJ Rush. Hood’s mastery of the arrangement shines here – barely restrained control is maintained throughout, further enhancing the absolute dread emanating from the strings. Fiercely resonant.

Rounding things off in a decidedly unique style, Homestead kicks off in vastly more understated, minimalist manner – but then that heavyweight, sonorous kick drum enters in devastating fashion. Unsettling keys appear to be the hallmark of this EP as we are once again treated to some nerve-shreddingly fearsome vibes as the lead synth loses its own mind, all the while the drum pounding vigorously away. This is a fearsome cut, resplendent in its overpowering understatedness – this track is an oxymoron in audio format.

Hood, once again, proves he is the master of his sound – like his ex-partner Jeff Mills, he has carved out his own niche, his own corner of the techno arena, where he leads, and others follow. His work under the Monobox pseudonym complements and expands upon this sound greatly.

This one is due out at the end of October. If this release is anything to go by, the album is going to kill people – in the best possible way. I, for one, can’t wait.

Reviewed by: The Hi-Tek Lo-Life