There are a lot of samples in Potential. So many, in fact, they often take the place of lead vocals. This copious and confident use of samples almost makes you believe that The Range has a superstar group of performers in his studio. Of course, he doesn’t. There isn’t a single feature on here, though that would be difficult to tell without glancing at the track listing. The samples never fail to feel organic, sometimes in a messy way, as many of them contain clear artefacts. Despite how seamlessly the samples and instrumentation flow, there are always a few clues left behind to as where the sounds came from.
James Hinton, the man behind The Range, does not do anything particularly ground-breaking on Potential. In fact, the title of the album paints a surprisingly accurate tone of what’s to come. “Regular” kicks off the album with a basic yet soulful beat, but it’s not the instrumentation that draws the focus. Rather, it’s the repetition of a British man repeating a few key phrases: “Right now, I don’t have a backup plan for if I don’t make it…but even if…I’ll just decide to move on”. It’s this inspiring and uplifting tone that resonated throughout and carries the entire album. This can be an issue at times; sometimes to appreciate the bubble-gum happiness, there needs to be a few dire moments. Perhaps the closest sombre moment is the track “Five Four”, placed in the middle of the album. There are some emotionally repetitive piano keys here, paired with another sample similar to “Regular”. Whether it’s the same person is difficult to say – everyone sampled on this album comes off as random, forcibly strewn together. The sample on “Five Four” could even be a rapper, showcasing how well Hinton has mixed these samples together.
Hinton has an ear for sound, something that would be well appreciated in hip-hop. Nearly every track borrows something from a few genres or other artists. There are some pitched down vocals on “Copper Wire” which sound analogously close to something Burial would make. The only difference is that the sounds contained here are several times more wondrous and pleasant. Hell, Hinton often comes off as the younger, happier and less depressed brother of Burial sometimes. It makes the sounds fresh and new, even if these techniques have been done many times before.
But whilst this fresh tone gives a new spin, it can make Potential feel redundant rather quickly. At least three of these tracks could potentially (pun intended) be closing tracks. It’s a conclusive sound that gets tired after its first usage, making the album a little worse for wear. It lacks the range of emotional high and low points that is needed to make a cohesive experience, instead staying at the same solid ground of similar production throughout.
Having said that, there are no downright bad tracks, and none that feel tacked on in an attempt to extend the playtime. Every song is expertly crafted, twinkly and kind of beautiful. Most of the songs repeat melodies while adding layers, chopping vocals, and distorting and stretching samples. It’s defiantly special – but it almost inspires thoughts as to what Hinton could do with a competent MC or vocal guest. Perhaps this would spoil what makes The Range so special – the manipulation of these random and anonymous samples into music. But there is no getting around the fact – there is certainly more potential here.
– J. Faull