The Range

Potential is the new album from producer James Hinton under his alias of The Range.

Hinton made the computer his primary instrument after falling under the spell of Baltimore club, bringing in his broader sonic influences from early '90s jungle, early '00s grime and mid '00s electronica to a new sonic whole. The software was the thing at home, but what excited the young producer was the network, and where he spiraled was YouTube. Potential uses as its backbone a series of vocal samples that Hinton has found in the forgotten corners of the site, guiding us around the hinterlands of YouTube, introducing us to unknown artists expressing themselves unfettered by the constraints of industry, lost in the infinite potential of an audience unknown.

Potential is a record steeped in histories – of its characters, of its forebears – but is startlingly new and alive: the network may be ones and zeros but the circuitry here runs on blood, still.

The ghosts settle in almost immediately on M​arina,​the first full­length from New York singer Eddi Front. "Goldie" opens with a low, baleful piano and Front's vocals plunging like icicles. "Picking out the dress to knock you out," she sighs, "this will be our last meeting." It's a FITTING beginning: for the bulk of Marina , Front examines the dark side of human entanglements, cycling through heartache, loneliness and recovery with clarity, poise and humor. "Here's a lie I wanted to pitch to you," she mocks in "Play Ball," "I have room in my heart for all of you."

Marina​has the same kind of haunted, noir­ish atmosphere as Cat Power's M​oon Pix​and Smog's Knock Knock;​it's the kind of record where shadows hang across every song, and each creeping lyric feels like the twist of a knife. That's not accidental – Cat Power was among the records Front picked up while working at a Long Island Tower Records, and she fell in love with Liz Phair's G​irlysound tapes after receiving a copy of them from A COLLEGEfriend. Traces of that spare, spectral approach show up throughout her own work. In fact, when she was first starting out, Front was so beholden to the idea of minimalism, she was resistant to the idea of working with a producer. "I thought it was really unnecessary," she laughs. "It seemed silly to produce – the songs seemed perfect as they were." It was producer Dan Chen who opened her eyes. "It finally clicked," she says. On Marina, Chen and Front retain all the eerie skeletal beauty of her earliest recordings, but add layers of ambience and echo for songs that shimmer like the northern lights. The album was mixed by John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth), who gave the record scope without sacrificing its intimacy.

Front's dedication to capturing unvarnished emotion dates back to her childhood. When she was a teenager, she would listen to Fiona Apple on her headphones, and then record herself singing along to practice pitch and delivery. It helped to ground her ­­ Front and her mother would relocate often when she was younger, and while it was disorienting for Front, it also built a strong bond between the two women. "It was just the two of us, growing up," she says. "In school, I was an easy target, because I was always the new girl. But my mom took care of me all by herself."

It was during a short stint living in North Carolina that Front received her first guitar and took to it immediately. That guitar would be her refuge when she turned 21 and suffered a crushing depression following a breakup. She decamped to a family home in Italy to recuperate, and started composing songs based on gut impulse, emotion and feeling – no filter, nothing held back. "The depression was the catalyst," she says. "I don't know if I would have reacted that strongly to the breakup if that wasn't also happening at the same time."

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