Can you think of many current dance music artists whose music you'd call "earnest"? Not earnest in the sense of solemnity or seriousness, more like honest-to-god, heart-on-the-sleeve emotion? Dance music often seems most comfortable in obfuscation, its emotions held back a little, but as The Range, James Hinton writes songs that go against this grain. His sound, a kind of home listening style made from bits of club music, is pretty and incredibly sincere. In his review of Potential, Hinton's recent album on Domino, Andrew Ryce used words like "poignancy," "vulnerable," "bittersweet," and "heart-tugging melodrama" to describe its 11 tracks. In particular, Hinton loves to draw sentiment from the human voice. On Nonfiction, his 2013 breakthrough album, he sampled speech and singing from YouTube videos with barely any views; on Potential he put this concept at the heart of the record, going as far as to make a documentary about the stories behind the people he sampled. "Right now I don't have a backup plan for if I don't make it," says a wannabe artist on "Regular," a line soaked in hope and vulnerability in a way that defines the album.
You won't fail to notice such feelings on RA.521: it's made up entirely of Hinton's music. He reached for tracks old, new and forthcoming in making the mix, a blend of pop, R&B, hip-hop and bass music that's unmistakably The Range.
What have you been up to recently?
Right now I'm on tour in the US so there are lots of long trips where I can work on new music, which is really nice. I always like making new music in the day to play at night so it's a great opportunity to be able to do that over a long span of time.
How and where was the mix recorded?
I recorded this on CDJs in my apartment in Brooklyn. I labored over this one to get it right as there are a lot of new songs that haven't been heard before, and I really hadn't considered how they might fit in a set prior to working on this mix.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
The idea behind this was to bring together music from my past two albums, earlier work from prior to those and new songs that I have been finishing more recently. It was interesting to show how I'm thinking about some of the newer songs by placing them against material with which I've spent a lot more time.
On the new record you used voice samples taken from YouTube videos with less than 100 views. What interested you about this idea?
I think I was beginning to get the feeling that there was something fascinating about videos with a really small number of views while touring Nonfiction. There are few songs on that album which sample YouTube videos, and I found myself curious about who the people were on those songs, and that really drove my interest to make an album entirely of that style of vocal. The most exciting thing about it for me is the moment when I'm so excited about a video and then look down at the view count and realize not many people have seen it. I love the opportunity to bring attention to someone who so obviously deserves it but for whatever reason hasn't had the chance to be exposed.
You also got to know some of the people behind the samples while making a documentary about the project. What were some of your key takeaways from this experience?
It was amazing to have the opportunity to showcase the people on the album in their own cities. While I was recording it was important to me that the people on the album have qualities that I see in myself, and I found that the documentary process only confirmed a lot of what I assumed after spending time with each YouTube video. Each person is just as driven and kind as I thought they were, so it's been a pleasure to meet everyone I've been able to while in each country.
What are you up to next?
Right now I'm in one of the more productive phases I've encountered, so I'm writing a lot and beginning to think about and do research for my next album. I have a lot of traveling to do this summer, so I'm looking forward to writing in lots of different places as that usually sparks some interesting ideas for me. And I'm looking forward to visiting libraries in countries other than the US to start to think about the nature of the archive with respect to sampling by differencing deletion policies across different countries.