The Range – aka Brooklyn producer James Hinton – opens his album Potential with a track called Regular. “Right now I don’t have a back-up plan for if I don’t make it,” cuts a London-accented voiceover, abruptly chopped off mid-sentence. It almost seems like the most impossible sample to start building a beat over, but that’s what Hinton somehow manages. Layer upon layer of electronics, vocal coos, and a deep prolonged bassline envelop the sentence, and by the end of it Regular feels like a laughable title for something that’s anything but.
That sort of magic is largely at play across Potential. What Hinton does isn’t exactly miles away from what any electronic producer might be up to these days – hell, most of the time they could all pretty much run into one another – but the tools he uses do seem fresher than the average. Florida bounces with a sweet timbre and Kai‘s impassioned performance, covering the dreamier side of electronica with such invention that you’d never guess it’s based on an Ariana Grande track. Meanwhile Five Four blends rap, trip-hop and dub beats for a surprisingly heartfelt composition.
By and large, it seems Hinton is using those raw vocals to say what he needs to, balancing the raw, unsure side of fledgling vocalists while himself hiding behind production that is generally faultless. To the more cynical, there may be a bit of a Wizard of Oz concern here, certainly as there is an odd disparity in the idea of a Brooklyn man relying so heavily on London-based POC voices. But Hinton never feels exploitative in the work, though celebratory wouldn’t quite be the word either. It’s essentially a mash of culture, sound, and voice (crystallised so well on final track 1804) that makes an earnest stab at marking not just the potential of these hidden gems, but rather of the human experience as a whole.