Release Date: Mar 25, 2016
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Electronic, Downtempo, Pop/Rock, Indie Electronic, Experimental Techno, IDM, Jungle/Drum'n'Bass
Two facts about YouTube: On average, over 100 hours of video are uploaded to the website every minute, and if uploading were to cease altogether, it would still take you some 60,000 years to view all of its data. Its eyes have seen more beauty and horrors than any, and James Hinton is after its secrets. For Potential, his second album as The Range, Hinton scavenges YouTube’s wild split ends, collecting snippets of human voices, isolating them, and assembling them into a collage held together with the paste of his top-of-game production skills — each beat directing focus towards a vocal-sample-as-pièce-de résistance.
For a lucky few, YouTube can be a lucrative avenue of employment. But in December, Fusion explored the stark reality of being a known figure on the website while still using outside means to pay the bills. The stories of viral stardom are feel-good in that they transform the lives of those who are found and become stars, but what of the seemingly infinite pool of talent whose break simply hadn’t come, or wasn’t looking for one? This latter group is explored and wonderfully transformed on James Hinton’s sophomore album as the Range, Potential.
There’s an awful lot of artists who earn their keep by making bold musical statements, but James Hinton isn’t one of them. His debut LP as the The Range, 2013's Nonfiction, worked precisely because it didn’t try to be ‘game-changing’ and it didn’t pay any attention to trends or popular opinion: Hinton was the guy sat in the corner of the room, hunched over his computer, too busy making colourful, percussive electronic music to pay attention to what anyone else was doing. Like the rest of the world, the Providence-based producer has stayed in front of a screen over the last few years.
“Right now, I don’t have a backup plan for if I don’t make it.” That stark confession opens the Range’s “Regular,” from the YouTube spelunker’s intricate sophomore album, Potential. The 27-year-old Brooklyn producer, otherwise known as James Hinton, has expressed appreciation for those he samples in his deftly textured exegeses on the human condition. He finds his subjects while tumbling down virtual rabbit holes so deep he discovered ’90s rave music — mined for his recent Solid Steel radio show — through art-pop plastic surgeons PC Music.
In an era when electronic musicians are crafting highly involved concept albums made from samples, music or just texture, James Hinton (aka the Range) has created perhaps the most pragmatic of the bunch. Scouring the deepest depths of YouTube for samples that would become the anchor of each track, Potential, the Range's sophomore LP, builds 11 songs around desperate spoken affirmations, freestyle raps and unidentifiable vocal clips. Where his 2013 debut, Nonfiction, referenced '90s electronic, the Brooklyn musician jumps a decade ahead for influence, trading drum & bass and West coast hip-hop for British grime and Baltimore club music.
For The Range - that is, Brooklyn producer James Hinton - YouTube is as much a music tool as a synthesiser or drum pad. ‘Potential’ - his second album under the moniker - is full to the brim with samples of artists he’s discovered from the deepest depths of the video sharing site, pulled from hours and hours of tweaking settings and search terms to find as much hidden talent as he can lay his hands on. It’s a process Hinton went through for his 2013 debut ‘Nonfiction’, but on ‘Potential’, it’s further exemplified.
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 instrumental hip-hop, dubstep, twinkling electro-pop, and more, and they’re defined above else by their immediate familiarity.
James Hinton doesn't really make dance music. Instead, he ties ideas from various genres into neat bows of downtempo instrumentation. On Nonfiction, his 2013 breakthrough album as The Range, he added a baroque, often tender feel to his eclectic sound. It was bedroom-born electronica not unlike, say, Dntel, music that was earnest but meek.
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.
For his second album, Brooklyn-based producer James Hinton has developed a conceit that’s beguiling if you know the back story but perplexing if you don’t. Each vocal sample on the record was borrowed from an aspiring singer or rapper in an obscure corner of YouTube. The title is optimistic: few of these vocalists display obvious potential, and their presence amid Hinton’s finely calibrated beats can be jarring.
IT ISN’T HARD to find decent electronic music nowadays. In fact, 30 seconds of SoundCloud scrolling should lead you to either an original composition or a remix that is at least satisfactory. But what’s so often missing from electronic music is humanity, which is what sets the dispensable and indispensible apart. Huge synths and booming drums are usually fun, but they can also be done by almost anyone and leave little lasting impact on the listener.
With his excellent, début record, Nonfiction, James Hinton a.k.a. The Range, showed a series of latent qualities that in the future could allow him to blossom into a unique and noteworthy electronic artist. Three years on and with the release of his second, full-length record, Potential, Hinton has scoured YouTube to present a narrative that not only proves to us that he is well and truly close to meeting his own potential but also muses upon its title and seeks to find catharsis through technology.