Less than 11 months after ‘Negro Swan’, Dev Hynes returns with ‘Angel’s Pulse’, a short mix of impressionistic sketches chock-full of collabs and spanning all manner of genres. It’s for this that fans of the former will appreciate it. Save for ‘Birmingham’, an imagined response to the white supremacist bombing of 16 th Street Baptist Church, the mixtape’s markedly less political, and relies less on autobiography.
Dagenham is swapped for Florence, and it was recorded all over the place, in places like Dubai, Berlin and Helsinki, all produced and mixed by Hynes. This rootlessness finds form in the way he hops from murky shoegaze-lite to clear-eyed 90s R&B (‘Good for You’) and gospel stylings and also in the blanket of loneliness that covers it: “Nobody picks up”, “no reply”.
He’s still got friends in high places though. Move over, A$AP Rocky and Puff Daddy, your features weren’t even that good. This time, Arca and Toro Y Moi are supplying. Kelsey Lu, Tinashe and Justine Skye are also on form, but the same couldn’t be said for Project Pat and Gangsta Boo, whose bars don’t sit that well alongside Hynes’s, which are in the main carefully abstract and elusive.
He can rap, shred, coo. He can work with, it seems, almost anyone. If you were being harsh, you might say he’s the acceptable face of dilettantism – he works quickly, and it can show.
But when he’s good, he’s really, really good: the polyphony of ‘I Wanna C U’; the echoey melancholy of ‘Dark and Handsome, debuted back in April; ‘Something to Do’, all slow maj7s and bubbling reverse effects.
The first four tracks and ‘Take It Back’ are some of his strongest so far. It’s a gratifying epilogue to last year’s effort. He’s clearly sitting on a lot of good stuff, which we’ll have to hear soon.
Words: Wilf Skinner
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