Potential is the new album from Brooklyn, NY-based musician James Hinton, aka The Range, one of electronic music’s most fascinating artists.
Released late last week, the foundation for Potential was build utilising a series of vocal samples that Hinton found in the deep corners of YouTube, introducing us to unknown artists expressing themselves unfettered by the constraints of industry.
What inspired the producer to create the human stories behind the samples as Hinton explains, “I found each person by using a small set of search terms on YouTube. Each song is inextricably linked to the point in time that I came across each video. I endeavored to tie the songs of Potential together by telling my own story alongside the stories of the people I sampled. Every song tries to acknowledge a sense of vulnerability or difficulty in life, as well as an intense drive to cope with problems in ways that don’t drag you into the abyss.”
As well as the record itself, Hinton and filmmaker Daniel Kaufman have created a documentary titled Superimpose (set for release in the coming months) which will look at the human stories behind the unknown artists featured on the album.
To get to a more intimate peek inside the multilayered LP, Hinton has kindly penned for a us an Potential track by track which you can check out below along with the album stream. For more info on The Range and the upcoming documentary pop by his Facebook page.
This song was incredibly important to the construction of the entire album. When I wrote ‘Regular’, which came together incredibly quickly in an afternoon on tour, it was the first time I think I could loosely see what the whole album would express as a whole which historically for me is always an exciting moment!
I think my favorite part of the song is the switch-up in the lyrics when the bassline comes in. I was intentionally attempting to switch the meaning of the line that I had repeated up to that point. By starting the new phrase with ‘I’ll just decide to move on to something bigger and better’ I meant to recontextualize the meaning of the song, which up to that point was a grim point of view, to the proper introduction to the album whereby the song is exhibiting some aspiration towards an unstoppable locomotion and drive in life.
That psychological dichotomy is really important to the album as a whole and I think this song really frames it well.
‘Copper Wire’ was finished really late in the process of recording the album. I think I am most proud of the dueling vocal samples in this song – it’s the first song I’ve ever made that uses two different videos as source material. It’s one of the most personally resonant songs on the album to me – I think Zak’s vocal captures a critical moment in my life that I wasn’t able to deal with until recently.
‘Florida’ was certainly the song that I spent the most time on from inception to the final version that is on the album. Early on the song was really percussively dynamic – lots of polyrhythms competing with only the single high-pitched ‘me’ laying down the rhythm. I like that a lot of that percussive complexity seems to frame the song as it stands on the album now – it suggests that you can listen to the song with respect to multiples of the metronome and each listen changes the framework of the song.
I also think this song is really important theoretically alongside Falling Out of Phase – those two are the songs that I chose to use covers of what were originally pop songs (Ariana Grande and Keyshia Cole respectively). Covers of songs are an important part of Youtube culture and I think to leave them off of a body of work that is touching on that world would be a misrepresentation of a healthy part of the culture that exists within the part of the internet on which I was hoping to shed some light as part of this project.
That said, I think what is profound about Kai is that even while singing a song that is cut to the original instrumental of ‘You’ll Never Know’ (you can hear it in the background of her Youtube video!) she sings with such emotional veracity that you would be hard pressed to think the song was anything but an original. I think her version captures a real life longing and a distance that the original song wasn’t aiming for which has always impressed me.
I wrote this song in Paris in 2014 in the afternoon before a show I was playing later that night. I remember I had been having a tough time and was feeling pretty lonely.
I think writing this song was a form of comfort for me – the lyrics of this song to me are written by someone who is so sure of himself and his feelings that he would be willing to totally commit to his relationship. At that moment everything felt like it was in so much turmoil that it felt good to get a song down that was the antithesis of what I felt was my situation.
I also think it leads nicely into the lyrical content of Five Four in a nice way as I intended the last three songs of side A of the album (‘Superimpose’, ‘Five Four’, and ‘Falling Out of Phase’) to form a triptych within the larger narrative of the album.
I remember this was a song I had written when I first moved to New York at the end of 2014. That was a pretty tumultuous time for me and I remember it as a difficult time to focus on anything but feeling stressed and anxious.
When I first heard S.T’s verse that I used in this song it instantly captured a lot of the unguided frustration I was feeling. “I rinse in events on the daily to hold onto since scarred from the hard tasks and dreams that never came to pass” hit home for me because it seemed like I was just getting up every day to get onto and off of the subway only to wake up the next day to do the same thing with nothing to show for it.
Looking back with some distance I like how plainly the line is stated – it doesn’t suggest that anything will change or get better, it just captures that emotion of stasis perfectly. I think I am guilty of being a Pollyanna about things that are going wrong in my life a lot of the time – this song was an important check to that at a crucial time and I think I am much better for having lived with it throughout the process of making this album.
Falling Out of Phase
As I said in the description of Superimpose, ‘Falling Out of Phase’ was intended as the final section of a triptych, and as such I think it reflects lyrically on the downward trajectory introduced from the uplifting start of a relationship through the middle frustration, and ultimately with this song the resignation of getting to a point where you need to make a change.
‘No Loss’ was very intentionally chosen to begin side B of the record. I think it picks up at the end of ‘Falling Out of Phase’ which, to me, is a place of resignation. It’s kind of the beginning of the conversation ‘I know this is terrible, but what am I meant to do about it?’
I like that it moves to an anthemic place by the end as I do believe that there is a wonderful upside to recognizing that you are at a low point – it gives you a place to put your back against and sometimes makes decisions a lot clearer once you recognize the situation you are in.
What struck me about this song was the loop of Ophqi’s line ‘broken past no prospects for the future.’ It’s from the same video as the lyrics on Five Four and I think is an example of how repeating a line over time can change one’s idea of what a phrase means.
I like how the vocal line stays steady against the shifting musical lines underneath – I think the line means an entirely different thing when reflected off of the opening than when the song opens up in the back half.
‘Retune’ was a vocal breakthrough for me – it was the first song I wrote that ended up on Potential and at the time was an interesting line of thinking coming off of Nonfiction. This was the first time in my music that I thought to edit the line of a vocal at the word level mid-song to try to switch up the meaning of a phrase for effect.
The repetition of ‘be’ throughout is meant as a backbone for all of the other phrases such as ‘admit you’ll be/back’, and while rudimental I find this device to be a profound use of editing which I hope draws back the curtain a bit on the other vocal work on the album. A huge part of this project for me is the idea that the lyrics on this album express things that I have difficulty putting into words myself and Retune gets at that idea at a really guttural level.
‘So’ is the third song of the second triptych of the album. I intended for these three songs to be a successive stripping away of the process to sort of reveal in increasingly extreme ways the lyrical editing process on the album.
Skeptical takes a phrase unit and repeats it for effect, Retune dissects a phrase that I intend to self reflect over the course of the song, and So repeats and pitches only one word. My intention was to show that even one word can come to mean different things over the course of a song depending on what has set up the sections in which the word finds itself.
‘So’ is interesting to me as the penultimate lyrical gesture of the album as it’s a word I find myself using daily as a point-maker, a throwaway, an interrogative, and in text messages and I like the idea that it exists as all of those possible meanings at once until someone brings their own life to bear on the song.
This song is intended as a pair to Regular as I think they both circle around the idea of how you can deal with hitting blocks and trouble in life. I love how Damian acknowledges plainly that it’s not easy to make progress in life – ‘Try but it’s hard to make it’ – but doesn’t ask for anything but the opportunity to keep working at the change of his situation. It was really inspiring to hear at the time for me and I think it distills a complex topic about how to find a way to make actions in life down to a humble point.