In April of 2018 James Hinton relocated from Brooklyn to isolate himself in the Green Mountains of Vermont and continue to work on the tracks that would make up his rave and grime-influenced fourth LP as The Range. When naming the new album, he landed on a word that captured both the deep intensity of the songs and their multiplicity of meanings: Mercury. The mirror-like surface of liquid mercury made him think about the way his music reflected specific memories from his life. Mercury poisoning causes mad hatter’s disease, a neurological disorder characterized by behaviors including depression, apathy, and social anxiety, all moods that had taken hold of him during his time alone in Vermont. Hinton, who holds a degree in physics from Brown University, also thought of the planet Mercury and its fraught position as the closest planet to the sun. Eventually, as the sun expands into a red giant star, Mercury will be burnt up and consumed. Hinton had been verging on burnout in his creative process and liked the idea of Mercury continuing to exist despite its cataclysmic trajectory – as he puts it, “scorched but still in orbit.”
As Hinton operates within these larger sonic spaces, he gives himself more room to branch out as a musician and producer. “1995” and “Ricercar” skitter and pulse around their R&B vocal samples, rhythms energetically unfurling like frames of Super 8 film. The low bass thrum and soaring vocals of “Bicameral” are itching to be played in a massive room, or, alternatively, soundtrack a midnight stargazing reverie. It’s a track that showcases the duality of meaning that Hinton loves to present in his music. “I am very selective in the phrasing and melody I let in from my samples, and on this album all of the words are specifically chosen to say the things that I am unable to say,” says Hinton. “The original vocal is ‘When you lighten’ but I like that the interpretation of ‘When you lied – when you lied to me’ is equally readable as the phrase repeats and changes.” Album centerpiece “Relegate,” co-produced with Damian Taylor (Björk, The Prodigy), evokes the rush of pure four-on-the-floor but avoids becoming too locked-in. Hinton opens up the mix and imbues the house motifs with his own distinct warm glow. Even as genre and tempo vary throughout the album, it all feels like part of the same cohesive palette.