Dev Hynes. A name that is no doubt fairly well-known in our strange little music criticism world. But beyond our obsessive compulsive fanaticism of the music industry, amongst the musical ‘plebs’ if you will (thanks Andrew Mitchell), he certainly is not as revered as he deserves to be. His musical path hasn’t been straight forwards. It’s been a windy river, journeying into the murky depths of dance-punk as part of the band Test Icicles, flowing to the eddies of a solo acoustic-folk project called Lightspeed Champion. From there, he jumped ship to create grooved-out R ‘n B under the moniker Blood Orange. And now he’s moved away from the spotlight to work with Solange, the oh-so-obviously sister of Beyonce. So this here is a bit of an ode to the man.
The band that described their success as something of a joke gone awry, their sound was a visceral collision of confusing genre strands. It’s equal measures punk, pop, metal, and a little math-rock. The band name was originally Balls, but switched to the much more subtle Test Icicles. The first track I heard was ‘Boa vs Python’, a blizzard of noise and fiery biscuits, but beneath all of that there’s some sneaky melodies and hooks in there. A bidding war broke out to sign the band, they ultimately signed to Domino, released one full length record, and split up not so long after. Hynes explained to NME that “We were never, ever that keen on the music. I understand that people liked it, but we personally, er, didn’t.”
This is where I have to take a bit of a backseat. I never really got into Lightspeed Champion. There’s no particular reason why, sometimes things just don’t work out. So, here’s a picture of a kitten.
For some reason I just fell for Blood Orange straight off the bat. I love the sparse R ‘n B atmosphere, where an artist doesn’t try to hang too many bells and whistles onto a beat, and Hynes as Blood Orange found a way of making that happen. Tracks like ‘Dinner’ and ‘Champagne Coast’ just have a warm fuzzyness to them. Delicate flickerings of guitar or keys come fluttering across, but at no point become overbearing. I love listening to one of these tracks and then jumping back to a Test Icicles track, it sounds like the equivalent of Lars Ulrich of Metallica announcing he’s going to embark on a folk-rap side project.
Blood Orange’s only LP, ‘Coastal Grooves’ came out in 2011, so what has Hynes been up to since then? Well. . . (besides working with Theophilus London and Sky Ferreira).
Why, he’s been working with Beyonce’s little sister of course! The UK is going a little crazy over her track ‘Losing You’ at the moment, and it sounds like Hynes has still got his Blood Orange hat on. It sounds easy, uncomplicated and effortless. The track comes from a forthcoming 7-track EP to come in January 2013 and I’d expect to hear more of the same. And then after that, what’s next for Dev Hynes? Who the funk knows. But the odds are that it’ll be worth a listen, and I can leave the kitten pictures where they should be, on Tumblr.