Pitchfork (Website) - "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..."
On his second full-length album as the Range, Brooklyn-based producer James Hinton plumbs the depths of cyberspace to create sentimental, sample-based electronic pop songs. The majority of the album's vocals are sourced from YouTube, which Hinton spends an inordinate amount of time trawling. On the album's most memorable cuts (especially "Florida" and "Falling Out of Phase"), he samples amateur renditions of songs originally sung by pop and R&B stars like Ariana Grande and Keyshia Cole. The fact that he just samples the songs' hooks means that his tracks are instant earworms. When he samples rappers, he seems to have a preference for the sharp cadences of U.K. grime MCs over their American counterparts. The abundance of British voices in Hinton's music might cause listeners to mistakenly believe that he hails from the United Kingdom, when in fact he's a native of Providence, Rhode Island. Musically, his tracks have a touch of U.K. garage bass and jungle breakbeats (particularly on "No Loss"), but he also blends those influences with American ones such as footwork and Baltimore club. He often plays with a slow/fast dynamic, with the breakbeats rushing under the starry, slo-mo melodies. In a lot of ways, his vocal manipulations and blending of several styles of underground dance music are reminiscent of Machinedrum's trendsetting 2011 album Room(s), but Hinton seems more interested in crafting pop tunes out of his source material, putting the vocals front and center and letting the music exist as a bed rather than the focal point of the songs. He's fascinated with the singers behind the songs, and the stories behind what they do and why they make their videos available to the public. In some ways, Potential seems like a 2010s update of Moby's Play, with the Alan Lomax-recorded blues and gospel samples replaced by early 21st century youth expressing themselves musically and attempting to live out their dreams. (The voice that opens the album states "Right now, I don't have a backup plan for if I don't make it, but even if... I'll just decide to move on.") It's worth noting that like Moby, Hinton made the effort to track down the sampled vocalists and compensate them. Potential is an intriguing glimpse at the human identities hiding behind computer screens, and how emotions are expressed through the filter of social media. ~ Paul Simpson