Mid-tempo electronic musician James Hinton comes to Texas for first time during SXSW

David Sackllah

Producer James Hinton has been making mid-tempo electronic music as The Range and playing shows since 2008, but last year his life changed completely. His newest album, Nonfiction, was released last fall and received acclaim from music websites, such as Pitchfork. Hinton’s newfound success has allowed him to go on European tours and to quit his day job and focus on making music full time.

“A lot more people are in my life and I’ve started to branch out and work with more people,” Hinton said. “It’s definitely a lot of added complexity to life since Nonfiction came out.”

Hinton makes his songs by blending elements of ambient or downtempo electronic sounds with raps or hip-hop style beats. He often uses loops and repetition, but subtly changes elements in the music to keep it fluid. 

Nonfiction is filled with hypnotic electronic tracks, often built around obscure a capella hip-hop samples that Hinton found online. In some songs, such as “Jamie,” Hinton built the music around the sample he found. Hinton always begins his compositions with a single element.

“I know a lot of people compose where they have the whole song in their head that they like to get out,” Hinton said. “For me, it’s always a small kernel of a thing that I try to expand upon.”

Hinton, who is playing in Texas for the first time at SXSW, crafts songs that fit well in a variety of settings — from studying in a library to dancing in a club. He makes an effort to find a midpoint between dance and ambient electronic music. 

“My music will never get too clubby, like a ‘Harlem Shake’ type situation, but it will also never be a 30 minute meditation or yoga music either,” Hinton said. 

Hinton is a fan of underground rappers, citing King Louie, Lil Durk and Young Thug as some of his favorites. While Hinton explained that he would never try to make beats, the ideas and attitudes behind recent hip-hop trends serve as an inspiration for his work. 

“It’s always a huge way of how I think about music,” Hinton said. “It’s definitely important to me as a touchstone for everything. It’s this idea and mentality that I’m very conscious of.”

Now Hinton is preparing for the release of Panasonic, an EP due out at the end of the month that serves as an addendum to last year’s record. Hinton describes Panasonic as having a sparse, compositional style, containing ’90s hip-hop tempos, unlike the jungle and footwork influences present on Nonfiction

Hinton said he wants to get back and start working on another LP that should be out by next year. But, for now, he’s focusing on taking advantage of the attention he’s received for Nonfiction

“I feel like I have a lot to say right now and want to get as much music out as I can,” Hinton said.