Angel's Pulse

Angel's Pulse

If you haven’t listened to Blood Orange’s 2018 album Negro Swan, start there. Let its chilling soundscapes and spoken-word commentaries about blackness, depression, and anxiety sink in until you’re a little uneasy (and probably also in awe of Devonté Hynes’ ambition and artistry). Then, return to this, his first-ever mixtape—billed as an epilogue to Swan—which the London-bred Hynes describes as an “almost stream-of-consciousness diary entry” that ultimately resembles something like healing. “It ends hopefully,” he tells Apple Music, “or tries to. I’m not sure if I’ve ever successfully done that before, but I wanted to here.” After a brutal year of political and cultural turmoil and the loss of several close friends, including rapper Mac Miller, Hynes felt moved to release more music and to change the tone. Angel’s Pulse is wide-ranging, fast-moving, and psychedelic, like a whirlwind tour through the back corners of his mind. It is not, Hynes notes, an overt political statement: “If there are things that read as political, it’s because I’m experiencing things that are happening in the world,” he says. “As someone who has struggled with sexuality, who is black, who grew up in Essex and Barking and then moved to New York City, who is 33 and lived before the internet and after it, and who is living in a time when just buying a fucking coffee is political, my music will of course be political. But it’s a diary, not an agenda. My goal is just to be honest.”
“I Wanna C U” “For people who are fans of Blood Orange or have gotten to it within the last record or so, I feel like this, sonically, is the last thing you expect to hear when you press track one. That in turn sets the tone. It’s just live drums, bass, and guitar. So it’s my way of saying, ‘Leave your expectations behind.’ Also, I try to hold back a little. I’m not saying any one thing in particular with my music, more exploring thoughts and themes. And my thing is like, I always try to make it inviting. Rather than projecting myself onto people, I do my own thing and say, ‘This is my world and anyone is welcome into it.’”
“Something to Do” “I originally wrote this in Paris in February [2019] and kind of kept it close. Sometimes certain melodies, chords, and lyrics circle around my head and I’ll try to work through them at various points in time to make different things. There’s probably five different versions of this track, and maybe even a sixth in the future. But for now, this was the one that led the pack.”
“Dark & Handsome” (feat. Toro y Moi) “I rented a house in LA for a month where I just holed up and made music nonstop. This was one of the first songs I did in that time, and they’re some of my favorite lyrics I've ever written. I feel like I really got the feeling and emotion out that had been bubbling around in my mind. And really, honestly, it’s about grief—grief, death, and suicide. Those are the three things this song is meditating on.”
“Benzo” “I’m really happy with my mix on this track. I feel like I achieved a level of clarity that I’d been trying to get for years, to where it sounds clear and concise but still true to how it was made, which was just for me in my apartment. I’m always trying to toe the line between big drums and isolating everything. This is one song where I think the mix matches the mood. Lyrically, it’s about feeling like no one sees your worth while at the same time knowing that’s a lack of self-worth anyway. So I was in that circular thought process.”
“Birmingham” (feat. Kelsey Lu & Ian Isiah) “I wanted this to feel like an abrupt new chapter. I had it cut into the end of ‘Benzo’ so it felt like kicking the door down. The lyrics are actually a poem called ‘Ballad of Birmingham’ by Dudley Randall, about the church bombing in the early 1960s. I had heard renditions of music set to those words before and they always stuck with me. Even if people aren’t aware of what the words are about, my hope is that the music will drive home a sense of grief and anguish. It’s powerful.”
“Good for You” (feat. Justine Skye) “Justine is just so good. Every now and then I book [the New York City recording studio] Electric Lady and invite people down. On this day, I’d made the music for this track and she came by to hang out. She pretty much—I mean, it’s not even pretty much, she actually did—freestyled the entire song. Start to finish. She’s crazy for that.”
“Baby Florence (Figure)” “Big surprise, this was recorded in Florence. The title isn’t too imaginative. I was there for a residency, working on a few pieces and some piano work, and wrote this song during my stay. It’s one of my favorites.”
“Gold Teeth” (feat. Project Pat, Gangsta Boo & Tinashe) “I’ve always had an obsession with Three 6 Mafia. For this song, I was working with Venus X, a New York DJ, and she said, ‘You know, Gangsta Boo would be perfect on this.’ I was like, ‘Uh, yeah, that would be insane.’ And she said, ‘Well, I know her, she lives in LA now.’ And she came over the next day. Then I hit up Project Pat, who I had worked with on my last record, to see if I could sample his vocal. Afterwards he said he wanted to do his own verse. And I said, please!”
“Berlin” (feat. Porches & Ian Isiah) “I was playing a show in Berlin while touring through Europe, and as you can imagine, this was from a really late night. It’s got an after-hours vibe to it. I actually finished it in Helsinki and then played it for Aaron, aka Porches, when I got back to New York. I told him, ‘Do something on it,’ which is kind of how I work with friends, and he did.”
“This Tuesday Feeling (Choose to Stay)” (feat. Tinashe) “I'm always trying to mash worlds together, you know, things I'm a really big fan of. With this song, I think was trying to do like Pixies but also early N.E.R.D. In my mind, that's what I was going for.”
“Seven Hours Part 1” (feat. BennY RevivaL) “Benny is the best. He's one of my favorite artists ever. I have all 17 of his albums. A lot of people don't know him, but that’s a shame, because he's so fucking good. I was lucky enough to become friends with him through my friend Despot, and he’d come down to New York to kick it. Having him on the track is a dream, because it's actually the first feature he's ever done.”
“Take It Back” (feat. Arca, Joba & Justine Skye) “I always say that songs are something that I start and that I finish. I look to other people for everything else. How Arca got involved is actually kind of funny. I was in Dubai working on music and they texted me asking what I was up to. I told them I was in my room working on this, and they asked to hear it. I sent it and then had to play a show, and by the time I came back to the hotel, they’d sent me their part. It was so sick. They were so fire and took the song to this crazy place. Meanwhile, Joba and I send each other music all the time, and he’d heard the progression of this track from the very first piano chords. When I made it back to LA, he added his part. He’s very closely tied to this project as a whole—he’s also just a good friend—and I can’t really imagine it without him.”
“Happiness” “I wrote these last two songs at the exact same time and I finished them at the exact same time. To me, they feel like a coda to this chapter as a whole. I was getting to the end of whatever I was working through—five or six months of deep emotional processing—and wanted to represent that. The lyrics on ‘Happiness’ aren’t supposed to feel glum; it’s more that when you realize a lot of things in life don’t matter, it’s freeing. It means you can focus on doing things for yourself, for your loved ones. You can be purposeful. That, to me, is the Angel’s Pulse.”
“Today” “None of my projects are politically motivated. None of them. But they are inherently political because of the things I deal with and what I live through. I was saying to someone recently how I think I've only written three songs about other people in my life. My music is about me because it's my way of working through emotions. It’s my outlet. So if there are things that read as political, like this song, it's because I'm experiencing things that are happening in the world.”


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