Hood's bleak presentation drops the temperature in my room another 12 degrees or so. Thanks, Hood.
The overwhelming dreariness on Hood's Outside Closer finds the band moving away from electronic styling and instead only peppering its work with synthetic elements. "There is a space between me and you" is uttered only moments after the beginning of "Any Hopeful Thoughts Arrive" and it's apparent that no hopeful thoughts have arrived for Hood. Outside Closer will have quite a significant impact on 2005, but it's a rather wintry and solemn way to begin the new year.
The cold soundscapes on Outside Closer are 15 years in the making, as Hood has been pressing on since 1990 out of Leeds, UK. The two founding members are brothers and are the only two that have stuck around consistently since the band's conception. Richard and Christopher Adams presumably get along a lot better than the brothers Gallagher and their fruitful relationship has produced an array of releases on many a label. This relationship may work as well as it does because of the Adams's affinity for using collaborators and musician friends, rather than a steady, unchanging band. Not to mention it also pushes Hood away from the meaty grips of mundane and predictable sound. Its most recent LP, 2001's Cold House, found the band venturing outward into indie hip-hop production help from cLOUDDEAD. Outside Closer, however, is not as warm as the brotherly love in a crowded production booth. The album marks an interest in cold, damp neighborhoods and frost-laden hillsides in its very chilly and detached track listing.
Often there is a single acoustic guitar melody, centered in the minor key, that is repeated over either live or programmed drums, such as in "Any Hopeful Thoughts Arrive" or in the one following immediately after, "End of One Train Working". In the latter, the vocals carry the same unsettling outlook as they do on "Any Hopeful..." but this time it's a lot more rhetorical. Chris Adams asks, "Where is the train ride back?" and then "Where is the hope I had?" over some bleak accompaniment in both a sinister string presentation and the distant-sounding handclaps. Midway through this, one of the album's better tracks, the backdrop slides out of earshot, and pieces of multiple harmonies suddenly appear in brief snippets and then statically cut out. It's almost violent, as if the vocals have been cut off in some unnatural manner, instead of merely slipping away. Hood is never short of being able to convey chilling imagery; sometimes it's packaged in more fuller-sounding trips like "Any Hopeful..." or disguised in what begin as sparse arrangements, finishing as collected, flowing pieces like "Still Rain Fell" or "This is It, Forever".
Thinly veiled by a title that couldn't be more depressing, Hood's interest in painting sunless days in British churchyards reaches its painstaking pinnacle in the closing number. "This is It, Forever" opens with a throaty, distorted vocal loop that also reeks of some unnatural death, accompanied most appropriately by somber funeral organ. As if this weren't bleak enough, the word "mistake" is mentioned only seconds from the start of this miserable procession. "Don't believe you're anything / Are you sure you exist?" is the most positive remark that comes out of this brief and dreary march. Adams sounds a bit like a defeated Ian Brown on the closer, and the vocals seem as if they're coming from the next room. If this is indeed it for Hood, it certainly knows how to end on a downer.