Over the past decade, Dev Hynes has extended his Blood Oranges across a variety of different branches. His 4 studio albums spiral through a variety of different sounds, from the new-wave stabs of Cupid Deluxe to the ambitious R&B jangles of Negro Swan. His 2019 mixtape Angel’s Pulse solidified him as a master collaborator, seamlessly bringing the likes of Tinashe, Project Pat, and Arca into his psychedelic world. Dev has even become a staple for soundtracks in the film world, enriching the atmosphere of movies like Palo Alto, Queen & Slim, and Passing. Where there’s room to grow, Dev Hynes appears, continuing to fill his tree with fruits of impassioned labour.
Four Songs, however, feels like a return to the roots, with Dev looking to alter the formula. At first taste, it’s pure Blood Orange, but as you peel beneath the rind, new flavours come to hit in a frenzy. When compared to the culinary world, Dev Hynes has created a new sonic palette reminiscent of Manuel Choqque Bravo; a fourth-generation Peruvian farmer known by many as ‘the mad potato scientist’. His potatoes, while always potatoes, form different shapes and present different vivid colours, using different growing techniques to create mind-blowing hybrids. Four Songs is Blood Orange, approached in a variety of ways to present a different approach to something we’ve grown to undeniably love.
This quick-hitting EP starts with the single ‘Jesus Freak Lighter’, which introduces this new rendition of the Blood Orange signature sound. Dev’s floaty, reverberated falsetto resonates atop a darker sound, led by thumping drums and shoegaze-esque guitar strums. The lyrics leave you to your imagination, allowing you to apply lines like “fallen seed, Jesus freak, broken fiber” to your own everyday experiences. Dev continues to act as a guide for your personal meditative experience heading into ‘Something You Know’, a stripped-back, lo-fi ballad rich with jangly chords. As he croons “everything is absurd,” the subject of this lyric never makes itself clear. As the soothing sounds linger, you begin to apply these refrains to your journey. Gone are the poignant statements of the last Blood Orange album Negro Swan, and enter Dev’s presence as a sort of sonic seer, illuminating a path for you to find your insight.
Heading into ‘Wish’, the ambient hypnotisation of Four Songs makes itself present. Dev’s voice falls from the summit-soaring high notes, loitering in a mid-tone, bouncing off thumping kicks and melancholic synths. The lyrics continue to thrive in vagueness, and the sounds he strings together to begin to become more reminiscent of the work of Tim Hecker than anything off of his debut Coastal Grooves. The EP closes with ‘Relax & Run’, a brooding slow-cut that shocks you back into reality, due to Dev’s deep dive into the abyss of feeling in a rut. Erika Di Casier and Eva sing alongside him, oozing the emotions of burn-out across lyrics like “Dry, boring nothing but bread.” This track feels like Dev pinpointing a destination of impending doom, with the state of the world squishing his sound into this sombre campfire tune. But the key lies within the title, foreshadowing the fact that this current solemn state isn’t the last stop.
Four Songs embodies everything that is seemingly displayed in the cover art: people passing by, going through the motions even in gloomy weather. This short EP serves as a companion for every road you cross, providing a smorgasbord of smooth sounds, and food-for-thought lyrics you can apply to your quests. It’s also Dev Hynes redefining what Blood Orange tastes like, becoming a mad scientist of sonics by creating jangly, genre-hybrid ballads. Does it signify a new chapter in this artist’s already wide-spanning discography? Probably not, as the Blood Orange tree cannot be defined by one branch. But enjoy this moment of meditation, use these songs to manifest your next destination, and if things become a struggle, remember to ‘Relax & Run’.