Analog Adventures: Endless

Frank Ocean



To Infinity and Beyond

I have written extensively on music that was never meant to have a physical release. The internets obsession with vaporwave manifested the gaseous into solid (link here), and this same fervent demand brought other albums into the physical realm. What is the point in this? Does art become more real if a token exists? This is another front in the physical vs. digital wars. The digital side argues that the art is enjoyable as a standalone experience, physical presence not required. Advocates for physical media believe that a material representation of the art completes the experience. There is an instance in which both sides found common ground in the instance of the world’s most reluctant pop star, Frank Ocean.

The Album Itself

After years of delays, teases, and mystery, Frank Ocean finally released his highly anticipated follow-up to his brilliant major label debut, 2012’s Channel Orange, but not in an exactly conventional way. The world is used to the surprise midnight release thanks to artists such as Beyonce, but This release is different, it is a visual album released exclusively on Apple Music. The 46-minute black and white video called Endless shows Ocean building a spiral staircase contains all new music. The album is unavailable anywhere else outside of this video; no streaming, no CDs, nothing. Only the video and pirated torrents.

The public quickly forgot about Endless, as the instant classic Blonde released the very next day, available to stream and download. The album is 46 of avant-garde soul connected by ambient interludes and moments of hip-hop drum breaks. The first song on the album is a minimalist cover of the Isley Brothers’ song At Your Best You Are Love. The synth hangs in the air like a specter of lost love, cut down by a warm piano and Oceans immaculate falsetto, saturating the soundscape to create a more haunting atmosphere. Less is more with Endless.

“Running showers and the mist so fly, enough time to know, nothing at all. Oh I see the lines, there’s two lines.You’ll live a life anew.” – Frank Ocean, Rushes To.

Speculation runs amok with why Ocean released Endless this way, but the most credible hypothesis is that he wanted to fulfill his contract with his record label and release his next album independently. While Blonde is way more popular, dedicated fans did not forget about Endless. Over two years after its initial release, Endless got a remaster and physical release. The physical release included a two-disc LP, a CD, DVD, and VHS recording of the visual album. The album is also available to stream, so the digital and analog fans both won in this instance.

Physically Speaking

The record is a hefty 180-gram affair, both discs have one side of music. The back side of each disc is etched with the track listing. Fairly impractical to listen to, but the statement is about the craftsmanship and art. The discs are amazing works of art on their own, but the cover steals the show. The white and silver cover are bedazzled by holographic foil that pictures simply fail to do justice.

The entire package laid out is a sight to behold.

Is It Worth It?

To go back to the beginning in which the question “does art become more real if a token exists” is posed. Endless is enhanced with a physical presence, no doubt about it. The experience of admiring the packaging and looking at the etching on the record truly shows how much Frank Ocean cares about his music and wishes to present it beautifully to the world. But this does not mean that the album is worthless on its own. The music is a masterful expression in minimalism and emotion that stands alone with a good pair of earphones. The two formats can exist together, endlessly benefiting the listener.

Outstanding Tracks

  • At Your Best You Are Love
  • Comme des Garcons
  • Rushes To

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Jose Diaz

Collector of analog media.

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