The Range – Florida is made by the electronic musician James Hinton, who peforms music as the Range, has worn the same hat and buttoned-up shirt combo each time I’ve seen him perform. There’s something comfortably consistent about it, and that can be said of his music, too. For instance, his new album, Potential, feels very much like a refined continuation of 2013’s Nonfiction. In some ways, it comes off like its second part, more than an entirely new entity.
This is praise. Nonfiction found a way to make moving, emotionally resonant electronic music from seemingly not much more than YouTube samples and a great sense of dynamics and melody. Like Nonfiction, Potential features YouTube clips of anonymous people who bolster and humanize Hinton’s compositions. Hinton explains: “I found each person by using a small set of search terms on YouTube… I endeavored to tie the songs of Potential together by telling my own story alongside the stories of the people I sampled.”
The words are sometimes moving, sometimes textural, and they can often bloom as amazing hooks—even if they didn’t sound polished in their original form. On “Florida,” for example, a shaky a cappella cover of Ariana Grande’s “You’ll Never Know” becomes a star turn in Hinton’s hands. He threads the woman’s voice through a mix of spritely electronics that bring to mind Nobukazu Takemura, twinkling steel drums, and an infectious dynamic upswing to create a dance-floor anthem. Listening to her in this new context, you begin to see what she heard inside her head when she decided to upload her clip to the internet. And it’s beautiful.