|Ocean in the depths|
channel ORANGE isn't completely indebted to classic soul, nor is it so modern that it'd alienate an older audience. Its lineage can be traced back up and through the works of Prince and Stevie Wonder, who in turn influenced the likes of Erykah Badu and Maxwell; a sect of neo-soul members that defined the black music era roughly a decade ago. Their re-channeling and funnelling of older influences with their own set the stage for others to follow or break away from. channel ORANGE's main appeal is that it isn't trying to position itself to be regarded as "classic," "serious," or even "album of the year." The music itself happens to be strong enough to bring these ideas out in the audiences receiving the project. ORANGE puts the ideas of mainstream and underground R&B/hip-hop on its heads, and sends it spinning.
channel ORANGE is a difficult beast to tame with the ear. Deep, swirling, and subliminal, it requires returns to reach and search its murky depths. There are cascades of synths, discordant guitar feedback notes, smart samples (listen for the Playstation One start up chimes on "Start"). Once the listener embarks on the second to third listen, what comes to the surface is that Ocean has a voyeuristic and self-examining pen.
|Ocean arcade style|
With his handsome, unassuming vocal presence the record vibes at a frequency that's approachable to the Top 40 crowd, but will win discerning music fans. channel ORANGE has got everyone talking, from what generated it, to the music it contains. Importantly, and what is being missed, is that it's something wholly different to what came before it, or what will come after it. It's a product rendered out of the uncountable style switches of popular black music culture and one that will mark another twist in its story. Five out of five stars.-QH
[Editor's Note: "End/Golden Girl" is only available on the physical copy of Ocean's new LP. For current information on Frank Ocean, visit him here.]