Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #265 - Frank Ocean, "channel ORANGE"

Big drifty tunes from the man-lover of the moment.

And "Thinkin Bout You" is right at the start as well. So the intent is stated. Well, after the weirdly evocative Playstation start music, plugging me into Tekken 3 and 1997. Why is there a track called "Fertilizer"? I'm not sure how well stitched-together Frank's mind might be.

"Sweet Life" is brassy and warm and tinkles soft with electric piano. It's like there are chunks of Curtis Mayfield that have been lifted out and reworked. Another one of the periodic reshufflings of soul/R&B - like The Neptunes or Marvin Gaye or Prince. Maybe not such a big leap, but you get the idea. I can't quite settle on where "Pyramids" is pitched - ideas are drifting about. There's a beautiful uncertainty in his voice, which sits well on top on the rolling synth buzz. I think it's re-locating Cleopatra to somewhere like Las Vegas, which is a neat idea. And it's in no hurry to get anywhere. There is plenty of space to explore. Ocean by name... Frank by name for that matter...

I wonder why I like this stuff, the smoothery, so much more now than I think I would have done as a younger lad. I imagine I would not be interested in what I saw as a lack of drama in the music. I always loathed soul music in the Eighties. Maybe I'm happier now. "Super Rich Kids" seems a strange angle to come from. In fact, most of the lyrics across the album seem concerned with estrangement and a sense of disassociation, just like we imagine the rich brats. I can taste the ennui on the back of my tongue, life trajectories rounded by success back up their own arses. "Real love/I'm searching for a real love" as the piano stamps with a Seventies intensity over Taxi Driver trumpets.

I really enjoy the fact Frank knocks about creatively with Odd Future. It's such an odd grouping, suggests people challenging each other. Puts me in mind of Outkast. "Crack Rock" loops about on old drums and older organ stabs. There's a similar urgency to "Lost" as well. And the same global scale: Los Angeles to India and Tokyo. An international blur. "Monks" is a bit of workout, lyrics about monks in the pit, "moshing for enlightenment" and "a coke-white tiger" sent to guard him.

"If it brings me to my knees/It's a bad religion/.../It's a bad religion to be in love with someone who can never love you." He's not having a great time, is he?


Philosophical kicking about on "Pink Matter" with Andre 3000, his happier musical cousin, and some tangy, psychedelic guitar sounds, stretching out across the gulf of lonely understanding. It cuts off sweetly sudden-like too. "Forrest Gump" is mingling surprises again, lust and tenderness and longing working together keenly.

"End" sounds ill, sounds like the Odd Future virus has snuck in and ravaged underneath the smooth, sad vibe; bubbled it with angry rusting bile. And it ends with someone ending the day. A really remarkable album, although I can't pick out what the remarks should be on.

Rating: Beautiful Uncertainty out of Dark Smoothery

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