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Dev Hynes
Dev Hynes: new material on cassette tape

Dev Hynes releases brand new material on cassette tape

And you can't buy it online, either – the Blood Orange singer is only distributing free copies in person

There is new Dev Hynes material out – only thing is, you’ll have to dig out your old cassette player to listen to it. The Blood Orange musician started publicly dropping hints of the untitled record on 30 November when he mentioned new music, accompanied by a photo of himself listening while walking home from Times Square:

On Monday, the multifarious instrumentalist alerted fans attending his NYE show in Los Angeles to expect only new material:

The next morning, the Cupid Deluxe singer became less elusive and posted a picture of the tapes themselves:

Later that night, he retweeted this joke by Nimrod Kamer: 

This isn’t the first unique listening experience the hip pop producer has provided to fans. Prior to the 2013 fall release of Cupid Deluxe, Hynes skateboarded around New York playing the album for strangers who messaged him their location through Facebook. I tagged along with Hynes and watched as he ignored countless email requests from the media. At one point, Hynes had spent so much time responding to fans that his phone died and we were forced to venture to the Apple store to use a computer.

As Hynes’ friend, I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the 43-minute long audiotape and have been listening to it nonstop. From what I've gathered, the recordings might not be identical on each tape. All the cassettes are blank on one side and – as of yet – are not accompanied by any artwork or track listing. The only song I recognised is the album’s opener, “Maxin’ (Profit House sketch)”. Hynes shared a recording of the catchy beat on Soundcloud last year, but has since removed it.

The new material stays true to Hynes’ signature sound of 80s-inspired pop music – but with a strong focus on piano, it’s arguably more romantic than his prior releases and it’s some of his best work yet. Sprinkled throughout the tape are echoes of someone dancing, and snippets of dialogue ranging from Hynes enjoying music in the park, to an unidentifiable man giving a speech on the importance of being kind.

It’s also difficult to make out where one track ends and another begins. Sections of songs drop out and pick back up much later, lending a reoccurring sense of climax to the entire tape. The lo-fi vocals are hard to decipher but mainly feature Hynes’ whispery voice, as opposed to the cameo-driven Cupid Deluxe. Clarity of the lyrics comes and goes: on one track, Hynes repeats “I changed it all for you”, sandwiched between less audible lines. It’s a give-and-take theme continuous from start to finish, strengthening Hynes’ ability to be vulnerable and mysterious all at once.

Those in possession of the tracks are encouraged to contact the singer the best way they see fit with any questions, making the experience all that much more personal. By elaborating on the classic cassette medium, Hynes has masterminded a refreshing new way of taking in art.

While Hynes has no plans to release the music digitally, it is unclear if he will distribute the tapes in any way other than physically handing them to people of his choosing – which, knowing him, will probably include fans at some point too. But evidence suggests that the number of New Yorkers sporting Walkmans on the subway is about to significantly go up.