Shuffle | The Range | Florida

Shuffle | The Range

Redefining Talent Search

by Joshua P. Ferguson

Connection is a big theme for Dialogue Incorporated. Whether we're writing about a label that's as into design as they are into music—Ghostly, we're looking at you—or an artist who uses comic books as a muse—as Distal does so well—connections like these help define the posts we write and share. So when we read that The Range, one of our favorite artists from 2013, was prepping a new album that heavily samples musical talent sourced from YouTube, we knew we'd found a fitting story to kick off the year.

A Brooklyn-based producer, James Hinton's output as The Range kicked back into high gear in late January with the release of the stunning single "Florida," the first off his sophomore LP, Potential, which is due out at the end of March. Stateside at least, Hinton is also graduating to see the record released on Domino—a move that should garner him even wider acclaim than he's already getting as a perennial Pitchfork darling.

Speaking with Pitchfork recently, Hinton talks at length about the concept behind "Florida" and Potential as a whole. Using YouTube as a literal talent search, he conducted meticulous searches to discover and connect with the singers and rappers he samples on the record— artists from NYC and as far flung as London and Kingston, Jamaica. 

He considers the project an exercise in getting past the blockade of videos with views stretching into the thousands and millions, to find hidden, homegrown talent posting to YouTube from a more sincere, artistic place. Here, Hinton finds the emotion that comes through on a songs like "Florida" while also elevating these under-recognized artists in the process. 

"For what I’m doing with the Range, [the vocalists’] narratives are so powerful—whether I’m reading into them or whether they actually exist—and that is much more compelling to me.," Hinton says in the interview. "There are flaws in it, but there are gorgeous parts that you would lose if you were forced to capture it in a studio."

The undertaking proved so successful, he's releasing a documentary alongside the record to explain more of the process and to give the stories of the artists he worked with and sampled a place to shine. 

With Potential's release next month, "Florida" is our only glimpse into Hinton's process so far. For it, he sampled fledgling New York vocalist Kai, lifting bits of her homespun YouTube cover of Ariana Grande's "You'll Never Know" (posted above). The result is as richly produced as any of Hinton's work, a dense mixture of chattering footwork hi-hats, ornate bass, bombastic choruses and here, in a move away from the piano lines that dominated Nonfiction and into Jamie xx territory,  a steel drum drum melodic line.

But the star of the show is Kai, whose vocal snippets take center stage, layered and looped for added weight rather than sunk into the mix as production elements or flourishes. The showcase has clearly left Kai all smiles, and she's even promoting the collaboration heavily on Twitter.

It's cool to see Hinton making a real connection with these artists. Lots of his contemporaries are flirting with booking marquee vocal talent for their records—artists like Hudson Mohawke and Rustie are mentioned in his Pitchfork interview. This approach is different somehow, and not just because he's not attaching a big name to his record to garner attention. Working this way feels more powerful. It gives The Range ample material for what is ultimately a concept album, Potential, and the artists he works with both a compliment and platform in the process.

"Florida" is out now on iTunes and Spotify. Potential is due out on March 26 via Domino Records.


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