Intricate, varied and unique, and over all too quickly.
British Singer Devonte Hynes
AKA Blood Orange has released his long-awaited 4th Album Negro Swan
and while it’s clear this new production dons a contemporary RnB persona, Dev is not afraid of experimenting with contrapuntal melodies, synth and, electronics. It’s provocative in some parts, funky and soulful in others and that’s the mantra for both instrumentals and vocals. Blood Orange is fast becoming a main contender on the music scene and his jam is worthy of a genre all of its own, this 4th album authenticates this notion.
First track 'Orlando' opens with a sound bite of bustling New York City, a climate Hynes most likely experiences on a daily basis. Although East London born and bred, he’s resided in New York since 2007 and his intros on 'Orlando', 'Chewing Gum' and 'Family' met with the contemporary flavour of his sound, only cements his New York affinity. It’s a shame that we’ve lost him to our cousin’s across the pond, but if that’s what it takes for him to produce albums like this – then we’ll happily sacrifice him for the sake of his art and our love of it.
As we journey through the rest of the album tracks, 'Hope' and 'Charcoal Baby' exude classic RnB, with effective and subtle use of synths too. 'Take Your Time' is one of the more low-key tracks; lead by a predominant flute instrumental that works well. In fact, along with sax, the flute is present throughout pretty much the whole album, but without being too whimsical. The essence of the track 'Jewelry' has jazz undertones, followed by 'Chewing Gum' which is pure hip-hop, slightly explicit but still funky. Gospel-inspired track 'Holy Will' really validates Blood Orange vocals here, great range and extremely soulful. It’s one of the first tracks on the album where you actually get the full force of what he can do and witness his great tone, the way he adapts his voice is fascinating.
It's a welcomed surprise to see track 'Dagenham Dream', suggesting that he still thinks fondly of East London. The song is not the strongest on the album, but what’s interesting is the production that can’t go unmentioned. Some effects are so faint but definitely present, sirens synth, you struggle to decipher them but put together they play an important part of the track’s make up. As with all his music, the balance of instrumentals, vocals and effects compliment rather than overpower.
The perfectly perched track 'Runnin' wouldn’t be out of place as the next Bond theme and is welcomed after the dramatics of 'Nappy Wonder'. 'Runnin’ is one of the standouts, satisfying us with an extremely healthy dose of Soul, the vocals are outstanding as are the guitar riffs and plucks and again a great use of production.
'Out of Your League' delivers a fix of baroque pop, upping the tempo at the right time and 'Minetta Creek' is almost disco, with both tracks you’ll be happy to bop and move to. The album ends with 'Smoke', the final number and a great way to finish by summing up the whole album: fascinating, soulful with great use of contrapuntal melodies.
The album will be something you’ll revisit constantly, it’s classic but encompasses all things new. Taking all the best RnB attributes that have stood the test of time, sharpening and preserving them. Then to keep it fresh adding unique inventive styles and musical formations. The only negative? It's over all too quickly!
Listen in full to Blood Orange - Negro Swan below