‘Angel’s Pulse’ is a religious experience

Devonté Hynes combines unique R&B sound with throwback and electronic elements in new album

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Devonté Hynes performs at a 2014 show in Sweden.  

Kim Metso | Wikipedia and Kim Metso

With the recent release of “Angel’s Pulse,” Devonté Hynes of Blood Orange has mixed and produced his way to the creation of an atmospheric, musical masterpiece which incorporates the influence of a multitude of outstanding features. As a proclaimed epilogue to his 2018 release “Negro Swan,” “Angel’s Pulse” is a virtual continuation of the melodic instrumentation and flowing choruses which gained critical acclaim in the year prior. This release undoubtedly signifies Hynes’ mastering of the lush, layered ballads his listeners have enjoyed since his 2011 release “Coastal Grooves.”

The harmonious sounds present in “Angel’s Pulse,” however, are an otherworldly mix of throwback R&B, hip hop and modern indietronica, all working together to create an ornate soundscape which only the sure-footed ease of a master producer like Hynes could provide.

If one were to hear tracks with the emotional intensity of “Birmingham” and “Baby Florence (Figure)” flowing through an empty church, it would surely be a religious experience worthy of the album’s title.

Each track on the album compliments one another as a result of Hynes’ consistent musical aesthetic, yet they hold sonic elements of unique artistry due to their differing feature artists. In the third track on the album, “Dark & Handsome,” Toro y Moi’s influence is wildly apparent, rendering the track similar to his recent release “Outer Peace,” which also melds R&B and electronic sounds to create a refreshing mix of old and entirely new style. “Dark & Handsome” allows the similar styles of Hynes and Toro y Moi to coalesce into what sounds like smooth jam session with both complementary and interrupting hip hop verses from the featured artist.

A similar hip hop influence is prevalent in “Gold Teeth,” which showcases rap powerhouses Project Pat and Gangsta Boo, in addition to the delicate vocals of R&B artist Tinashe. These elements allow listeners to be enveloped in the chorus’ fully encapsulating wave of sound and enjoy the layered verses of rap. In a stark contrast to the other tracks on the album, “Baby Florence (Figure),” which is a song of only Hynes’ influence, contains a pulsating electronic beat reminiscent of a New Order track from the 1980’s. In its essence, “Angel’s Pulse” is an album beyond just one limited genre.

All the aforementioned elements of genre and rhythm are accompanied by equally compelling lyrics. “Benzo” contains a sense of vulnerability due to what seems to be the bearing of Hynes’ soul being met with rejection from a loved one. “Open the door / Leave me with arms exposed.” In “Berlin,” the beautifully raw and aching vocals of Porches’ Aaron Maine compliment the falsetto of Hynes, allowing this emotional track to properly touch on familiar themes of loneliness and hopelessness. “Who will listen when you call? / Nobody picks up.” 

The track which contains the most jarring lyrical significance is “Birmingham.” This song tells the story of a child lost, leaving the mother to search and despair amongst an explosion’s wreckage. More specifically, “Birmingham” refers to the church bombing which took place in Alabama on September 15, 1963 in which four girls were brutally killed by white supremacist efforts. Overall, “Angel’s Pulse” contains tracks of deeper significance which confront society’s deep-rooted issues of racism and those which exemplify personal feelings of isolation.

When listened to in order, it is apparent that the transitions between these tracks are as smooth and slightly jarring as the differences between them. Being shorter in length, this transitionary feature allows each song to continue by taking on a new life in the next track.

In an announcement released by Hynes, he expressed his tendency to make records which he gifts to friends, keeps to himself or hands to people on the street. Upon hearing the mastery of the self-proclaimed mixtape that is “Angel’s Pulse,” one might wonder where these extremely lucky bystanders are hiding the rest of Hynes’ elusive mixtape masterpieces, and desperately hope they are found. These individuals are most definitely the owners of the deep lyricism, extension of genre and overall versatility exemplified by Devonté Hynes in this release.

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