Albums like Nonfiction, the first full-length from producer James Hinton (aka the Range), never get the credit they deserve: They’re too neat, too industrious, too polite—too many of the qualities we look for in coworkers and roommates and not enough of the ones we look for in artists. “I studied some math in school,” Hinton told us in a recent Rising interview. Math! Terrific. A sentence later he brings up his admiration for soft-rocker Bruce Hornsby. At 25, Hinton may have already blown the youth vote.
Nonfiction isn’t an album easily pegged to any scene or narrative currently circulating about electronic music. Its rhythms are rooted in hip-hop, drum & bass, and late-90s R&B, rendered on the scale of someone making music more for home listening than club play. Even at its busiest, the album feels tidy and compact, like the gears of a prewar pocketwatch. (What’s interesting to me about Hinton’s syncopations—the jazzy, double-time blasts of hi-hat and snare drum—is that syncopation is usually used to make a straight beat sound momentarily off-balance, whereas on Nonfiction, the more syncopated the tracks are, the more orderly they feel.)
Nearly every track here is pretty, in the most conventional sense of the word. Soft pianos, fake strings, bass that stretches like taffy, and synth blips that twinkle like itsy bitsy stars—if the sounds on Nonfiction showed up on your doorstep in the dead of night, you’d probably let them in without question. On a lot of the album, Hinton’s approach reminds me of Aphex Twin circa Richard D. James tracks like “4” and “Girl/Boy Song”—songs that juxtapose a cute surface with a hard-hitting, even threatening undercurrent. The difference is that James is a perennial misfit who always seemed to be half-joking and Hinton operates with the earnestness of a post-rock band working in miniature.
Nonfiction's highlights-- "Metal Swing," "Jamie" and "FM Myth"-- are built around vocal samples. House and dance music have a long tradition of making the human voice do contortions on tape that they could never do live—a possibility afforded by samplers and digital recording, which enable producers to chop, cut, paste, and loop in ways that would’ve been agonizing in the analog era. On Nonfiction, Hinton allows his vocalists full phrases, sometimes even sentences. Usually, these vocalists are gruff-sounding English dudes who seem to have been wounded by something they aren’t ready to get too specific about. (Hinton says he mostly finds them on YouTube, a site that lets us glimpse into the lives of strangers in a way that feels both intimate and yet impossibly cryptic.) They repeat their laments, sometimes for minutes on end, while the music grows steadily around them. The result feels like a series of time-lapse portraits of people refusing to change despite their changing environment—a nice, melancholy touch on an album that tends to take extroverted music and turn it inward.
Even if you listen to Nonfiction—and even if you like it—it probably won’t inspire you to call anyone up and say, “[Expletive], I just got back from the library, or the office, or picking up [friend’s name] at the airport, and I had this new Range album on at a reasonable volume the whole time, and it totally increased my general sense of well-being!” What it might inspire, though, is a kind of passive, slowly gestating admiration—the kind usually best measured in iTunes plays three or four months down the line, the kind you tend to recognize several hours into a workday in front of your computer, the kind that doesn’t surge like a fire but instead grows patiently, like a vine.
Check it out on my soundcloud player. Up next.
Source : http://pitchfork.com