Brooklyn-based producer makes good use of YouTube dark corners
From early signings like Third Eye Foundation and Antiroc to a current roster that sees Jon Hopkins and Animal Collective rubbing shoulders with household names like Arctic Monkeys, Domino have always enjoyed shining a light on the interesting gaps between the genres that restrain the choices of other, more conventional labels.
So while this debut album by The Range is a departure of sorts (it’s certainly the first LP on Domino that you could loosely term “urban”), it follows very firmly in that proud tradition. Conceived by the Brooklyn-based Baltimore producer James Hinton, it sees him fusing his love of jungle, grime, electronica and hip hop beats, but also opening up the project to the world by using vocals culled from a plethora of YouTube clips, talent “unfettered by the constraints of industry, lost in the infinite potential of an audience unknown” as his publicity puts it.
The results, then, utilise sounds and moods that will be familiar to anyone who’s kept a close ear on the various movements in electronic music, but at the same time rearranged and reinvented to the point they’re delightfully hard to pin down and neatly pigeonhole as this or that. There’s an undeniably London-bound grime MC, for instance, flowing with effortless poise on ‘Five Four’, but his tough voice is pitted against pianos and lush strings that are nothing less than heart-tugging. ‘Falling Out Of Phase’, meanwhile, is lifted up by the same quietly euphoric arpeggios that make the best Mike Paradinas productions so memorable, while a soulful male voice does battle with its own pitched up, time-stretched cousin.
That use of contrasting but complimentary elements provides the creative friction that makes ‘Potential’ such a satisfying and ultimately human listen. ‘No Loss’, for instance, with its bittersweet, neo-oriental melodies gloriously invaded by slowed-down junglist Amen breaks and prodding bass borrowed from bleep techno stalwarts like LFO or Unique 3. ‘Copper Wire’, the album’s big opening statement, takes the grime trick of stripping the rhythm down to its super-minimal essentials then turns it on its head by gradually building up to an emotional climax dripping in soul and melancholy.
‘So’ begins with a dusty old sample of some ancient strings, propelled along by wonderfully wonky, Autechre-style machine beats, glitchy vocal samples filling in the spaces left behind. Likewise, ‘Retune’ pits its choppy voices against two simple, very natural sounding piano lines and ‘Skeptikal’ shifts in and out of an infectious electro-funk framework while another London-sounding MC flows effortlessly about “lamping” in Hyde Park.
In each and every case, the main impression you’re left with is not one of genre-bending cleverness or even programming genius, but rather the ability Hinton has to rinse heartbreakingly beautiful tunes out of these seemingly disparate ingredients. In keeping with his mission to shine a light on the far flung corners of the internet, ‘Potential’ sounds truly international, as impossible to pin down in any one country as any single genre. It’s going to be fascinating to see where he takes his talents next, but on this accomplished debut alone his ‘Potential’ has been more than fulfilled.