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The Range - Mercury Music Album Reviews

The Range - Mercury Music Album Reviews
On his first album in six years, the Vermont-based musician continues to flesh out lush, melancholy electronic music with amateur vocals sourced from the internet.

James Hinton is an excavator. Over the past decade-plus he’s spent making music as the Range, he’s trawled through the unattended corners of YouTube, Instagram, and Periscope in search of vocals, most of them largely ignored by platform algorithms and the larger listening public alike. As of 2022, that strategy has grown less unusual, especially as the rise of TikTok has sent pretty much every A&R rep with a pulse scrambling online to find the next viral talent. Hinton, however, takes a more nuanced approach, having developed a specific set of search parameters to maximize his chances of striking internet gold. He’s not looking for hit songs; he’s looking for unpolished gems, fragments of speech and emotionally resonant turns of phrase that he can transform into pieces of electronic pop perfection.

Hinton’s technique has remained fairly consistent; his latest full-length, Mercury, largely relies upon the same methodologies as his 2013 breakthrough LP, Nonfiction, and its 2016 follow-up, Potential. As such, the new album represents something more like a refresh of his sound, rather than a full-blown reinvention. Its 11 tracks allude to various strains of dance music (’90s rave and classic grime most prominently) but largely steer clear of the actual dancefloor, basking instead in moments of gauzy melancholy and wistful reflection. Elements of soul, hip-hop, and R&B all factor into the mix as well, but at his core, Hinton is a pop artist, and a meticulous one at that. (Given his attention to detail, it might not be surprising to learn that he studied theoretical physics at Brown University and has admitted to being the kind of guy who does math problems for fun in his spare time.)

His methods are remarkably effective. From the rave-lite R&B of LP opener “Bicameral”—a song that makes the Bicep catalog sound like the work of hardened street toughs—to the twinkling gospel flight of “Cantor,” the album is bursting with bright colors and the stickiest of sing-along melodies. Mercury is notably warmer than its predecessors, and even as it glides between compact bits of woozy UK rap (“Urethane”), gloriously shambling soul (“Ricercar”), and tinkling garage laments (“Not for Me”), there’s an obvious universality to Hinton’s work. Referring to something as “Spotify-core” wouldn’t normally be a compliment, but every song on Mercury seems perfectly suited for today’s streaming culture, in which listeners expect big feelings (and even bigger hooks) in taut pop packages. There’s no fat or excess in a track like “1995,” even as it somehow squeezes plaintive piano, MPC boom-bap, a My Bloody Valentine sample, and the soulfully longing croon of vocalist Toiya Etheridge into less than four minutes.

For all his songwriting prowess, there is something extractive about Hinton’s process. Many of the voices on the album are by Black singers, and are being used by Hinton (a white guy currently living in Vermont) to further his craft. His use of Black voices as an expressive tool—a practice that producers have leaned on for decades, often without asking permission—may not be intentional or even conscious, but it underscores troubling power dynamics within not just the music industry, but society at large. To Hinton’s credit, he’s worked to make sure that the artists he’s sampled for the new album not only grant him permission, but also receive a songwriting credit, along with a share of the publishing—just as he did with Potential. That model may not be perfect, but it’s at least a step in the right direction; it’s also a kind of acknowledgement on Hinton’s part that there are things that he can’t do, and though he relies on strangers on the internet to fully realize his musical vision, he’s willing to compensate them for work that they’d initially put out into the world for free.

Hinton’s YouTube mining habits, and subsequent songwriting, feel distinctly contemporary. In a time when memes—themselves an elaborate form of (often uncredited) cultural recycling—have become a valid form of nuanced expression, why wouldn’t musicians source anything and everything at their disposal in an effort to most effectively communicate their emotions? Creation is increasingly defined by recontextualization, and when everyone is constantly being bombarded with content, perceptions of authenticity often become uncoupled from scrutiny of artists’ individual processes. Hinton’s own voice doesn’t show up on his latest LP, but it doesn’t have to. His songs tug at heartstrings all the same, and in a cultural landscape where “Does this make you feel something?” is now the predominant question, Mercury is sure to prompt a resounding yes.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
The Range - Mercury Music Album Reviews The Range - Mercury Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Saturday, June 18, 2022 Rating: 5

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