dev hynes will release his new blood orange album this spring

Hynes compares the forthcoming ‘Freetown Sound’ to the Beastie Boys’ experimental sophomore record and says it’s ‘probably the most relatable thing I’ve ever done.’

by Emily Manning
18 April 2016, 11:09pm

Trying to predict when Devonté Hynes will release music is almost as futile as trying to predict what it will sound like. Launching his career over a decade ago as one third of British dance punk band Test Icicles, Hynes later teamed with Bright Eyes producer Mike Mogis to craft a completely different, folk-inflected body of work as acoustic troubadour Lightspeed Champion. Even the two brilliant albums crafted under his current moniker, Blood Orange, boast distinctly disparate sounds; 2011's Coastal Grooves saw streamlined, new wave guitar riffs, while 2013's Cupid Deluxe incorporated jazzy 80s elements to unmatched effect. And that's not even taking into account his pop-minded production work -- including his winners for Sky Ferreira and Solange -- or the fact he scored an entire film, Gia Coppola's Palo Alto!

Today, Hynes answered one burning question: he confirmed that his third Blood Orange album, titled Freetown Sound, will arrive later this spring. Though he's recently dropped singles in response to social justice issues, Freetown Sound will be his first full-length record in three years. As to what it might sound like? "This is a very layered and very deep record for me," he told V Man. "There's a lot of meaning behind all of the choices I've made for this one."

Hynes didn't use too many descriptors about the instruments and effects at work on Freetown Sound, but he did say that it's inspired by old Dust Brothers records and "plays like a long mixtape." "It's like my version of Paul's Boutique," he said, speaking of the Beastie Boys' sophomore record -- a bold experiment in layered sampling that was commercially derided but remains a celebrated classic. Hynes himself has sampled everyone from Grace Jones (who he's sharing the stage with later this month -- do we smell a dream feature?) to Malcolm McLaren, so it's truly impossible to predict who might be a part of this dynamic pastiche.

This isn't to suggest Hynes is being secretive about Freetown Sound, though. Actually, he offered some in-depth insights about its shaping influences. "It looks into my childhood and examines who I am at this point in my life," he said, noting that it, "talks a lot about sexuality and displacement and life in the city," and that its layered approach is "very reflective of how my brain works." Perhaps most interesting, though, is the record's "strong theme of Christianity."

"When I was growing up," Hynes explains, "Christianity was drilled into my head so intensely, to the point where, as a child, I was meant to be left-handed but was forced to use my right instead. Left-handedness was seen as a sign of darkness." In addition to his personal relationship with religious institutions, Hynes says the record — which takes its name from the capital of Sierra Leone, where his father is originally from — will address, "the way Christianity was brought to West Africa and the way black households held on very tightly to Christianity because it was this beacon of hope."

Hynes' familial explorations have often yielded truly magnificent results. He and Kindness frontman Adam Bainbridge ventured to Georgetown -- the coastal city in Guyana where Hynes' mother hails from -- to shoot the video for "Chamakay," Cupid Deluxe's gorgeous lead single. For the deeply personal project, Hynes tracked down members of his family, including his 92-year-old grandfather, and filmed their first ever meeting. If Freetown Sound approaches this artful level of personal reflection, we're in for a very special record.

"It's definitely very personal," says Hynes, "but in doing that I think it's probably the most relatable thing I've ever done." Watch this space for more.


Text Emily Manning
Photography Beau Grealy
Styling Andreas Kokkino

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Devonté Hynes