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KUMD Albm Review: Angel's Pulse

Angel's Pulse

Angel’s Pulse is the fourth studio album from singer, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer Dev Hynes. Professionally known as Blood Orange, the East London native has gained a following by effectively weaving together R&B, electronic dance, and gospel elements into his own unique musical niche. 

His ability to navigate deftly between Prince-inspired pop falsettos, and thumping crunk- era drum samples prove his prowess as a genre chameleon. 

With 14 tracks, running just under 33 minutes, this album flows smoothly and cohesively. Hynes will often carry the same tempo and key from the end of one track to the beginning of the other, giving the impression that these tracks are inextricably linked in emotional energy, as well as musical motifs. Blood Orange even uses the expectation of these transitions as a thematic tool. As the drums drop out and the instrumentation becomes more sparse, the listener is lulled into a sense of security, expecting another uninterrupted delivery into the next melody. In one of the highlights of the album, Hynes decides to cut the track in the middle of a saxophone riff on the track “Benzo”, dropping the listener mid-sentence into Kelsey Lu’s exceptional vocal performance accompanied by Rhodes piano. Such consideration of the limitations and structure of the start and finish of a track is just one example of the artist’s exceptional ability. 

Other highlights of this album include the booming drums and synth combination from “Happiness”, as well as the unexpected verse from Three Six Mafia founder, Project Pat on “Gold Teeth”. From end to end, the highlight of this album is its production. It is easy to imagine that if one listened to this song on their phone speaker or on a radio across the room they might not be impressed by the fairly standard pop structure. But listening through high quality speakers or headphones, the details of each track shine. Every track shows the multi- instrumentalist’s attention to detail. From the guitar licks recorded and played in reverse on “Something To Do” to the echo and comically deep reverb utilized on “Today”, Blood Orange has many tricks up his sleeve. 

The sheer fun-per-minute factor of this album brings me to the its one negative: it’s too short. While previous Blood Orange albums have touched on themes of kinship through queer identity, the importance of unabashed self-expression, and the role of authentically portraying one’s race through art, this album felt empty of the empowering musical pep talks by comparison.. There were very few missteps on this album, but at the length of a sitcom episode, there isn’t much space for hits, either. For that reason, if you love Angel Pulse, listen to his 2018 album, Negro Swan. Angel’s Pulse feels like a trail of breadcrumbs; not enough to satisfy your cravings, but whetting your appetite for the wonderfully-curated library of sounds that is Blood Orange’s discography.

Try this album if you like: Gospel instrumentation, Prince, Frank Ocean, Toro y Moi, Solange, Aaliyah.


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