BLOOD ORANGE

 

For well over a decade, Devonté (Dev) Hynes has proven himself a virtuoso of versatility, experimenting with almost every conceivable musical genre under a variety of monikers. After moving to New York City in the mid-2000s, Hynes became Blood Orange, plumming the oeuvres of the city’s musical legends to create a singular style of urgent, delicate pop music. As Blood Orange, Hynes speaks a contemporary vernacular with an ear cocked towards history, giving voice to people and stories usually overlooked by the mainstream. Across two beloved albums (2011’s Coastal Grooves and 2013’s Cupid Deluxe), “Blood Orange represents a force of motion, aggregation, reclamation and scholarship,” as Ben Ratliff wrote in the Times last year.


Hynes’s solo project lives in tandem with his in-demand role as a songwriter/producer for hire, working with the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, Solange Knowles, FKA Twigs, and Sky Ferreira. He is also an established composer, scoring films (Gia Coppola’s Palo Alto, 2014) and artworks (Alex Da Corte’s Easternsports, 2016) alike. In 2015, his evermore-multifaceted career was crystallized on stage, where he invited his collaborators to take part in two sold-out performances at the Apollo Theater, with all proceeds benefitting Opus 118 Harlem School of Music. “In a year defined by hate and identity racing to the forefront,” wrote Rembert Browne in Vulture, “Hynes was an example of the therapeutic public good that comes from making this private pain available for all.”


This summer, Hynes is set to release Freetown Sound, the third proper full-length from Blood Orange and the most expansive artistic statement of his career. Drawing from a deep well of techniques and references, the album unspools like a piece of theater, evoking unexpected communions of moods, voices, and eras. Hynes’s ever-growing cast of collaborators includes new guests, like BEA1991 and Kelsey Lu, as well as familiar faces, like Debbie Harry and Nelly Furtado. His evolving studio practice is audible in interstices of found audio culled from his daily life; a selection of samples both classic and esoteric.


Freetown Sound derives its name from the birthplace of his father, the capital of Sierra Leone. Thematically, it is profoundly personal and unapologetically political, touching on issues of race, religion, sex, and sexism over 17 shimmering songs. Each song echoes into another, with leitmotifs carefully stitched throughout, yielding a sound palette that gently recalls elastic funk, slinky R&B, and pure pop, but resisting easy categorization. “It’s inspired by old Dust Brothers records, very cut and paste,” says Hynes. “It’s like my version of Paul’s Boutique. It kind of plays like a long mixtape.”


For Hynes, the process of self-discovery involved in creating Freetown Sound proved as valuable as the finished product. “This record really tries to say things that I’ve been wanting to express for many years,” he says. “It looks into my childhood and examines who I am at this point in my life. There are so many crazy layers to it that it’s actually quite hard to talk about it, but the record is very reflective of how my brain works. It’s been very interesting for me trying to understand and tie all of these things together. It’s been a way of working through it.”