A year today… Remembering Frank Ocean’s ‘Endless’ [Album Review]
Standout tracks: Rushes, Sideways, U-N-I-T-Y, Comme Des Garçons and Higgs (first 3 minutes)
A year today in the most unconventional of fashion, Frank Ocean released his visual album Endless via Apple Music’s streaming platform. If you didn’t spend at least an hour of your working day on 19 August 2016 waiting for its release, you aren’t a true fan.Though the impact of Endless has been seemingly lost in wake of Blonde which released the following the day, this album represented more than a way for Frank to escape the clutches of his record with Def Jam.
Part of the charm of Endless is that it is unfinished. A hazy, abstract, 45-minute singular visual piece, the only really became an audio album when fans ripped the Apple Music video for its audio and separated it into individual tracks. Its structure is fragmented with the loop at the end of “Device Control” repeated throughout the album, particularly on “Higgs” where the Daft Punk style declaration evolves to a Spielberg-ready sci-fi soundtrack.
“Rushes” is an immediate standout from Endless. On “Rushes,” Ocean’s voice rings out from a cavernous echo, as if the house from “Super Rich Kids” has been bordered up and the kids, now older, sit forlornly in the drained pool reminiscing of a youth spent well. Add the guitar, played by Orchid Tapes affiliate Alex G to the hi-hats sputtering to life in the second part of the song to create an embryonic sound that leads perfectly into Blonde.
On “Sideways” Frank raps. His flow here is similar to his verse on Earl Sweatshirt’s “Sunday”, purposeful and melodic in his tone, yet still carrying that R&B style that is synonymous with his legacy. He goes on to explore how empty adoration can be. This is a theme that the record as a whole pivots, giving us two sides of Frank Ocean, the anonymous session musician and Frank Ocean the cautious recluse, constructs that are equally outspoken and creative.
The credits Endless were released soon after its release, with two notable absences producers Frank Dukes and Stwo, tweeted about their work on the song “U-N-I-T-Y”. Perhaps they couldn’t be credited for fear of being complicit with this label snub, who knows. What we can be certain of though, is “U-N-I-T-Y” is special. Conscious, free flowing and extremely laid back in his approach, this is another standout on this project.
All this time, while we were waiting for Frank Ocean, Frank Ocean was waiting on us. The era of the digital panopticon has de-sensitised us to life outside the camera. Endless asks us to question our imprisonment to a constant stream. In a world in which all can be streamed, our hunger for the next moment prevents us from digesting the last one, this couldn’t be more evident on Endless where our desire for a new Frank Ocean album almost prevented us from our ability to hear it.
Watch this space for our review of Blonde, which celebrates its first anniversary tomorrow.