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Blood Orange 'Freetown Sound' review

Ben Smith reviews Dev Hynes third album 'Freetown Sound' - a splurge of musical ideas sending a very important message.

Ben Smith

Date published: 1st Jul 2016

Image: Blood Orange

It's probable that you've crossed paths with Dev Hynes before. Whether that may be through punk triumvirate Test Icicles, as Lightspeed Champion or production credits for artists as varied as Florence and The Machine, The Chemical Brothers and Solange Knowles.

Deeper research finds that his musical hand extends much further than that, but it's under the pseudonym Blood Orange where Hynes expresses his socio-political messages through sample heavy R&B, dreamy neo-soul, smokey jazz, disco references and well-mapped percussive elements.  

Spoken word samples frequent throughout; Hynes hones in primarily on race and civil rights. On 'By Ourselves' gospel harmonies subside to Ashlee Haze delivering her poem 'For Coloured Girls': a reciting about Missy Elliot inspiring feminist values to black women through her early work.

Eighties inspired 'Chance' mirrors Boogie Down Productions - 'Why Is That?'. The track samples a verse from Genesis via respected jazz musician Charles Mingus about the genealogy of Shem: the black biblical son of Noah.  

The best feature of the album is the industrious use of percussion and collaborative efforts. 'E.V.P' adopts an afro-funk rhythm from Wally Badarou's 1984 spin 'Chief Inspector'; 'Desiree' slings a sleazy disco groove while 'Best To You' - featuring Empress Of - accelerates proceedings with a tropical throb. 

The liner notes are awash with women artists: Nelly Furtado hushes over 'Hadron Collider' and Carly Rae Jepsen accentuates the synth smothered 'Better Than Me'. Multi-instrumentalist Kelsey Lu, Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry and Zuri Marley - the granddaughter of Bob - are also hooked in. 

In perspective this album is a splurge of Hynes musical ideas - replicating 80's dance-floors through to Brooklyn jazz holes - which reels off quite sporadic. But what's consistent is that it shines a light on social anxieties during a time when the world appears to going back on itself: ultimately this record translates as a cry for love and unity. 

Like this? Read our review of Gregory Porter 'Take Me To The Alley'