Blood Orange

Angel's Pulse

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Two or three years tend to pass between Dev Hynes' Blood Orange LPs, so it was a surprise when Angel's Pulse arrived only 11 months after Negro Swan. Upon this set's release, Hynes said that he often writes and records immediately after the completion of each project and keeps the material to himself or a small circle of recipients. In this case, he chose to publicize his supplemental work, terming it a mixtape yet (accurately) deeming it consequential enough to make available on physical formats. Angel's Pulse indeed plays out like a tape, one consisting of 14 deliberate vignettes and full-blown tunes squeezed onto one side of an imagined C60. (As it's 32 minutes in length, consider it a slightly expanded edition.) Flow is minimal, consequently making it come off like a hurried dub for an unplanned ride. The sequence is most disjointed when a distressed visit to the scene of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing -- with disoriented Kelsey Lu and wailing Ian Isiah as parents searching through debris for their children -- is inserted between bittersweet and temperate numbers concerning self-esteem and a faltering romance. Elsewhere, Hynes, supported vocally on occasion by Toro y Moi and the especially well-placed Justine Skye and Tinashe, articulates a lot more heartache and anxiety with his weeping vocals. He's at his most hollowed-out sounding with "Ice around my wrist, my touch is cold," a sharp flip of "money can't buy happiness." He's also stressed by the passing of time, citing his age (more than once) and grieving over the loss of loved ones; he even uses a rare energized moment to accept that "happiness will fade." Welcomed levity is left to Gangsta Boo and Project Pat, Memphis rap legends who carry "Gold Teeth," and online character BennY RevivaL, whose unremitting verses whip across the lo-fi hip-house of "Seven Hours, Pt. 1." Production-wise, this roams around with some abrupt switches, supplying slow-motion and spaced-out grooves, low-profile boom-bap, and wayward guitar scrawl with highest frequency. Hynes' downcast disposition and the return of several Negro Swan collaborators -- Lu, Isiah, Pat, and Porches -- provide the continuity.

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