Frank Ocean : channel ORANGE
There are resounding thematic elements throughout channel ORANGE, the studio debut from OFWGKTA associate Frank Ocean. It's a record littered with a pastiche of found sounds – some nostalgic, some future nostalgic. Perhaps it's a concept record in that sense, but to articulate it as such would be missing the point at this stage in time. The record is important for a number of reasons – it's the first album to deliver on the promise of Odd Future's electrifying rise, and it transcends what could have been a ephemeral movement in nu-R&B into something more realised. This isn't nu-R&B, it's just R&B. Brilliant R&B at that.
Following on from the sample-heavy mixtape of last year nostalgia, ULTRA (its planned physical release, minus several key tracks, was thankfully canned), channel ORANGE achieves a certain purity, some sort of realness. There's unabashed positivity throughout – scenes of beaches and cloud-surfing – but rather than the relentless, near-mindless, disposition of Lil B, Ocean is anchored by a tense, uneasy undercurrent. Tracks bleed into each other, tracks come to an abrupt, disjointed end – some seem half-finished ideas, some are mitigated skits. It's this confluence of raw intimacy and decided elusiveness which defines channel ORANGE.
You can pretty much taste the ennui dripping from Super Rich Kids, an ode to first world problems. Like actual first world problems. The track also features the album's only appearance by a Odd Future brethren, with Earl Sweatshirt (remember Free Earl? That shit seems like forever ago) delivering a perfectly laid-back flow over the plonking Benny And The Jets-style beat. You feel the effects when Earl ryhmes about “xany-gnashin'”. There's no boasting about popping bottles and banging bitches, just “too many bottles of this wine we can't pronounce”.
Crack Rock is a straight-faced, wisdom-enhanced narrative concerning crackheads, with a chirping chorus calling to mind Chappelle's Tyrone Biggums without the humour, but still with a breezy levity. Crack Rock ends abruptly. It's almost cheesy the way Pyramids cuts it off with a blaring, percussive sample. Pyramids is the centrepiece of the album, as if its ten minutes of cinematic glory were embedded like some glorious monolith. The track has everything – histrionic samples, vocoder breakdowns, soothing guitar samples, biblical allegories.
Andre 3000 guests on Pink Matter, and despite the title, it's probably the least horny guest verse 3 Stacks has dropped in the past half decade. Bad Religion ties together the automobile motif, “Taxi driver, you'll be my shrink for the hour”, a gospel song bemoaning unrequited love. Grappling masculinity, alienation, privilege and sensuality, Ocean has crafted a record which belies his youth. There's little on channel ORANGE for the club. There's everything for the heart.
BY LACHLAN KANONIUK
Key Track: Pyramids
If You Like These, You'll Like This: Stankonia OUTKAST, House Of Balloons THE WEEKND
In A Word: Profound