Album Review Blood Orange - Negro Swan

Blood Orange - Negro Swan

Not the most immediate listen, but undoubtedly one with real weight.

Rating:

Over the course of his career, from the dance-punk blitzkrieg of Test Icicles to Lightspeed Champion’s emo catharsis, through the sultry, smooth R&B of Blood Orange’s first moves to now, Dev Hynes has been on a path of reduction and refinement. Now seemingly a fully paid-up member of the ‘less is more’ school of sound, ‘Negro Swan’ arrives with an overarching ambience of unsettled nocturnal wanderings through New York streets; Dev’s vocals are far-away and thin, while found sounds of distant traffic and lone jazz players pepper the record. Guests pop up throughout his journey: Tei Shi and Puff Daddy add dreamy falsettos and grounding musings on love respectively to ‘Hope’, while The Internet’s Steve Lacy is credited on ‘Out Of Your League’ - likely responsible for the crunchy snare beats that poke pleasingly out of the general haze. Trans activist Janet Mock’s spoken word monologues on identity and self, meanwhile, are peppered across its 16 tracks. An album, according to Dev, about “black depression, black existence and the ongoing anxieties of queer / people of colour”, ‘Negro Swan’ is a record that radiates these tensions; subtle and amorphous, it’s not the most immediate listen, but it’s undoubtedly one with real weight. 

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