NYC-based electronic producer James Hinton (aka The Range) has finally graced us with his new full-length record, Potential. It’s a follow-up to his 2013 LP Nonfiction, which remains one of my favorite electronic albums of the past ten years (I must have listened to it more than 100 times in the past couple of years). Hinton excels in his tasteful and powerful use of sampled voice and circling piano riffs, a stylistic trope which has persisted through several years of his work (and one which is particularly salient in his live sets). Hinton’s work occupies a weird fusion space between the sort of piano-ambience I find to be my musical comfort zone (think Julia Holter and $3.33) and the break-heavy sampling material that I’ve only recently begun to explore. It’s a very harmonious union, I assure you – but don’t trust me, take a listen for yourself!
The record begins with “Regular” and a sampled confession: “Right now, I don’t have a back-up plan for if I don’t make it / but even if, I’ll just decide to move on.” This mantra is repeated several times above a subtly pulsing percussive click and soft layered background vocals and clinking tones. More than anything else, The Range succeeds in creating an electronic sound environment which sounds distinctly human – a space of ambience, but also a space of voice and humbleness, of wanting, of needing, of insecurity and perseverance. This was possible because most of Hinton’s sampling happened by way of listening to random YouTubers and asking them for permission to sample; Hinton is a deep digger and a visionary listener. We saw this on 2013’s “Metal Swing,” and it’s clear that Hinton’s sampling skills have only improved since then. “Copper Wire” confirms this as well, with a somewhat more nasal sample at its center (alongside an extremely moving chord progression):
you can make it rain on a sunny day
it’s a memory, i wish that everything was still the same
“Florida” has a massively impactful feel, consisting mainly of strong trance-y hits on top of whirling fragments of piano tone and a soulful female vocal sample (hard to comprehend). This puts it solidly in the company of a couple tracks from The Range’s last full-length effort Nonfiction (“FM Myth” and “Hamiltonian” come to mind), meaning it’s not exactly new experimental ground being traversed – but it’s clear that The Range has found for himself a comfort zone that people are interested in occupying alongside him. I, for one, don’t really see a need for a huge change in Hinton’s method; Potential feels both comfortable and fresh, not a new path but certainly a deepening and strengthening of the old one. I’ll be listening to everything The Range puts out for the foreseeable future, and so should you.
You can buy Potential on Domino Records right now.