'Potential' by The Range!

Its been a good year so far for new music and one of the most interesting has been The Range's major label debut for Domino Records, 'Potential'. If you're not familiar with The Range then its worth checking out his previous releases on Donky Pitch, debut album Nonfiction being essential listening. When I first heard James music it was fresh and quite different from my usual indie alternative leanings. Full of energy and interesting vocal samples, its a fine blend of beats and emotive synthesiser lines which feel almost cinematic when blended together, a mean feat for any producer working in the electronic sphere yet still holding a hip hop edge.

And Potential continues in the same vein but adds an even bigger emotional touch. Potential was a passion project which grew from an obsession with finding the right voices for his music and the emotional tone which James wanted to set, almost a concept album for the internet generation. Hundreds of hours spent trawling youtube led him to eventually find the artists and MCs who make up the vocal roster for Potential. I mean pulling artists from obscurity and making them super stars is common place these days and quite often youtube is a direct route to a record deal but these singers were sitting in obscurity, some with only a few hundred views compared to the hundred thousand views you'd expect to be even considered for a major label project. But The Range is a man who knows what he wants, even if he doesn't know how to contact the artists he's found! You can watch a short trailer about the process behind the albums creation below and the connections he made with the people behind the screen.

Potential for the most part follows on from Nonfiction but with a slightly matured sound. His recent collaborative EP with Niia (Breaking) is a nice bridge between the two and hints at a more expanded sound which is mastered on Potential with the familiar synth hooks pulling you in but its the vocal samples and singers that really give Potential its body and soul. Lead single 'Florida' with tropical drums and smooth vocals is a juggernaut of a tune that sets the pace for the album. 'Copper Wire' embodies the beauty of Potential with the vocal sample from Kruddy Zak who must be about 12 and yet his words cut deep "09 was emotional, it’s a memory, I wish that everything was still the same, talking like you can make it rain on a sunny day". And that's one of the great things about Potential, its taking the words of these unknown rappers and singers and putting them out to a wider audience, seeping into the listeners subconscious where the quality of the music and words can take hold. It might not bring any of them a Grammy but walking down Union Street singing along to Naturaliss "Give me stability and guidance, protection and deliverance, against all evil temptation, be 1000 blessings" feels pretty good!

You can listen to Potential via spotify here and check out a cool live set he did with Boiler Room here. Follow The Range on Facebook or Twitter and you can pick up the vinyl edition with bonus disc here.

‘Life Is Your Very Own Canvas’ by Penumbra Art at Seventeen!

Penumbra is a Scottish Mental Health Support charity which works across the board with people facing mental health challenges. Yes the dreaded elephant in the room that many of us have had to or will have to deal with at some point. Although the stigma of mental health has changed its still not that visible a topic despite the incredible number of people who face it day to day. Having faced my own problems a few years ago after the sudden death of a close friend I found myself seeking help to deal with the emotional trauma and the sad feelings I experienced in the aftermath at that time. So mental health is an issue that I hold close and will always champion.

Another friend who's always been open and honest about his experiences and has helped me is Steve Murison. I've featured Steve's work before and along with being a talented painter he also works for a mental health charity, Penumbra. Steve mentioned trying to organise an exhibition about a year ago made up from work created by the various people he visits week to week in his role as a support officer. His role in supporting people with problems takes many shapes but one common thread for a lot of people is the therapeutic nature of art or creating. I think most people have found some solace in the act of making, whether its painting, sculpture or music. So Steve set to work in bringing together work from his clients and curating a group show.

After a bit of an uphill challenge Steve finally secured a venue for the show and collected a wide range of work from his clients including original paintings, drawings, sculptures, screen prints and organised some live music from Best Girl Athlete (who were excellent). The range of work on show at "Life Is...." was quite incredible from expressive landscapes and portraits to the wall covered with quick sketchy drawings on standard lined paper. Steve's unique work occupied the back wall, always a treat to see his paintings grouped together and despite the high quality and breadth of work on show I was totally blown away by Barbara's water colour pieces and sculptures. Her write up about her work and her life was truly moving and I think shows a real honesty that is sometimes overlooked.

"My name is Barbara. I felt compelled to create whilst in the throes of mental illness. I made dragons so large they couldn't be moved. I painted myself dancing under the moon. I made mirrors of lust and statues from medication boxes. I'd like to share some of this with you, I hope you find magic in the artistry. This period lasted about 5 years and I burnt out. Although the spark has left me I still surround myself in art from around the World."

If only all problems could produce something so unique and beautiful. It was a real privilege to be invited down by Steve and to share in some of the experiences of the artists. I'd also like to give a special shout out to Kate who runs the KD Outsider Art blog who gave a great talk on the night about outsider art and how shows like 'Life Is Your Very Own Canvas' fit into a wider creative context and goes beyond just being an art show. Huge congrats to Steve for pulling it all together and for being one of my favourite beasts!