Many might know Devonte Hynes’ material only through his solo work as Blood Orange, but outside of that, Hynes has worked on a dizzying number of projects in varying capacities. He’s collaborated with songwriters like Carly Rae Jepsen, actors like Kristen Wiig and even film directors like Gia Coppola as a producer, songwriter, composer and arranger.
With Fields, Hynes has added classical music to his repertoire. Third Coast Percussion, a Chicago-based quartet, performs Hynes’ compositions, which also marks the first time Hynes hasn’t played the music he has written according to a press release from last August. The end result is an hour of peaceful and resonant ambient music.
Most of Fields’ run-time is dominated by an 11-part suite titled “For All Its Fury.” The suite has a few foundations in the form of motifs that are interpolated with one another. Third Coast Percussion focuses the instrumental landscape around mallet-based percussion with bells, xylophones and marimbas.
“VIII: Gather” has a couple arpeggio phrases layered on top of one another for a driving track until about halfway through, when organ-like tones dominate the landscape with sporadic bell tones. It’s a stark contrast, and one of the busier amounts of activity against the other ten tracks of “For All Its Fury.”
The last 25 minutes of Fields is split between two other compositions — “Perfectly Voiceless” and “There Was Nothing.” “Perfectly Voiceless” is based around fast, driving eighth notes in three-four time. It doesn’t let up until the very end as the notes begin to merge into one another, fading out.
“There Was Nothing” is — for the first half of the 13-minute piece — just that; extremely reminiscent of the ambiance of “For All Its Fury.” It moves slowly through the first half, but the second half introduces some fun elements. A makeshift drum kit comes complete with a warm bass, a staccato hi-hat and a clapping snare, but none of the three sounds akin to what one would hear on any traditional rock song. Eventually, the kit gives way to more mallets, and a jarring sharp turn to some electronic dissonance.
Outside of a couple excerpts of “For All Its Fury” and the two compositions at the end, however, Fields is more akin to an ambient album or a sparse film/TV/video game soundtrack more so than classical music as it is known to mainstream audiences. When Hynes announced Fields as a classical album, I wasn’t expecting a lot of it to sound so intentionally empty. That is not to say, however, that Fields is a bad album or not worth listening to. Third Coast Percussion executes Hynes’ arrangements with confidence, and it’s a fun journey to hear all of Hynes’ motifs move in and out of focus.
Dev Hynes has proven himself time and time again as a worthy voice in many categories, from Lightspeed Champion to Blood Orange to numerous production credits to writing film scores. Fields is a solid venture for Hynes, and I look forward to more bold moves from him. This hour of ambient music will come in handy for studying and reading, if not much else.
Final Grade: C+
Carl "CJ" Zabat is a music columnist for The Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.