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The Range — Potential (March 25, 2016)

The Range — Potential (March 25, 2016)

            The Range — Potential (March 25, 2016)
Location: Brooklyn, New York, NY
Genre: hip–hop, dubstep, twinkling electro–pop, Electronic–Dance 
Album release: March 25, 2016
Format: Vinyl LP
Record Label: Amoeba Music
Duration:     40:14
01 Regular     3:21
02 Copper Wire     3:45
03 Florida     3:26
04 Superimpose     2:46
05 Five Four     3:54
06 Falling Out of Phase     3:16
07 No Loss     4:15
08 Skeptical     3:46
09 Retune     3:47
10 So     3:34
11 1804     4:33
By Mark Richardson, MARCH 11 2016 / Score: 8.0
♣   James Hinton uses samples like he invented the entire concept. The Brooklyn–based producer, who just released his second album as the Range, doesn’t do anything with the technique we haven’t heard before. Quite the opposite in fact — the songs on Potential touch on dubstep, instrumental hip–hop, twinkling electro–pop, and more, and they’re defined above else by their immediate familiarity.
♣   But Hinton dives into his samples with the verve of a producer who just this morning discovered the jolt of creative joy that comes from flipping a vocal fragment just so and finding a way to repeat it that brings a cascading wave of emotion. His work may not feel new, but it crackles with a sense of discovery.
♣   Hinton got to this point by honoring the act of listening. Most of the tracks on Potential were built around samples of people he found singing on YouTube. But he didn’t focus on the pop stars, or even the viral sensations, but the amateur performers whose work survives deep, deep down search holes, the videos that were uploaded in a rush of expression and were subsequently seen by almost no one. As he described in an interview with Pitchfork, Hinton found these videos, assembling phrases from them that had a certain musicality but also carried an ineffable feeling. Though he transforms the voices with the usual techniques of pitch–shifting, echo, reverb, and so on, you can get the tiniest sense of the individual behind each utterance. Pay attention to the feeling of yearning in a young person saying “Right now I don’t have a backup plan for if I don’t make it,” in “Regular,” or the extra tug of effort around each R&B–inflected phrase in “Superimpose.” The voices feel anonymous but somehow closer because of that; they are faces in the crowd, just like us.
♣   Around these voices, Hinton crafts songs, full of house piano loops, clapping drum sounds, and tightly sequenced synth patches. This is music designed for uplift, with carefully plotted builds yielding to big choruses, and it taps into electronic music’s sense of possibility not by pushing things further, but by simplifying and paring back. ♣   Hinton brings to mind specific eras not from direct reference or slavish devotion to genre, but by striving to remember the historical moment when a specific element of sound first clicked — the squelching synth in “Genius of Love,” the ghost vocal loop in “Xtal,” the piano in “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt.” Because of this bedrock positivity (and, probably, because so many of the voices come from the UK) it also obliquely recalls the optimistic rave moment when the right combination of people and the right DJ could make you feel like you were part of something that mattered.
♣   All of this positivity means, naturally, there’s not a lot of darkness to explore in this music. The only pain present seems like the kind that that music is able to zero in on and explode, which is certainly not true of every kind of pain. At times, this uniformity of mood threatens to blunt the emotional pull of the album, but then there’s always a clever turn–around or defiantly catchy vocal loop to snap attention back in place.
♣   Perhaps unusually, Hinton tracked down the forgotten sources of his YouTube samples and signed them on for a share of his publishing. It may or may not lead to financial gain (though it’s pretty easy to imagine many of these tracks sounding good on TV in any number of contexts), but the gesture affirms the interconnectedness of life at this moment, how watching a random homemade video on YouTube can be thought of as a collaborative act. Hinton has an ability, not unlike the Books when they first hit the scene 14 years ago, of making shopworn techniques in sound manipulations seem strangely fresh, and Potential is the kind of music that makes you think about what your own part in a seemingly passive musical transaction of music might mean. Label: http://www.amoeba.com/

The Range — Potential (March 25, 2016)



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