Prolificness and perfectionism have always been the likely culprits in the delay for Frank Ocean’s second album—which, after many months of bumped-back release dates, arrived in a flood this weekend, unannounced. On Saturday he dropped Blond, the full-length follow-up to Channel Orange; that same day, he released an accompanying fanzine called Boys Don’t Cry in pop-up shops across the country. But before that, Ocean teased those two with Endless, a 40-minute “visual album” that served as a sort of audio sketchpad, accompanied by a film of Ocean building a spiral staircase by hand.
As a stream of tracks with no breaks, Endless was a radiolike, meandering style of mixtape, but the staircase remained a question—Was it ontological? Biblical? Simply a matter of carpentry? Now, Tom Sachs, the visual and performance artist who helped Ocean with the visual aspects of Endless, has spoken to Pitchfork about the clip, and said the original version of Blond’s precursor is a wild 140 hours long, as well as shed some more light on why it took so dang long to drop: DIY.
I know there was a huge wait on this for all this to come out. I think it’s testament to the reality that things made by hand take time. We’re living in an age of non-handmade things. The iPhone is the best-made thing there is, but there’s no evidence of a human being involved with it. Frank’s music, which is very personal and literally has his voice, in the same way that all musicians have their voice, it simply takes time. And when you see the video, you see him building a stairway to heaven in real time. The 40-minute version is edited, but there’s something like a 140-hour version. That’s the whole thing. That exists, that’s the art piece.
To that end, it’s very cool that Ocean spent so much time involved with his own personal touch, and perhaps why Blond’s structure as an album, and structure as songs, doesn’t seem very rule-abiding on the first few listens. (We’ll have a review for you once we’ve absorbed it enough; no need to jump the gun on something so voluminous.) It also recognizes the essential nature of being an artist in 2016, that if a person has the creative vision for it they can be a multimedia artist whose only boundaries are those in their own imagination—clear antecedents are of course Beyonce and Lemonade, Kanye West’s flirtations with art and fashion, Jay Z’s “Picasso Baby,” all colleagues and collaborators of Ocean’s. (West and Blue Ivy are credited on Blond.)
And, hell, it takes a long time to make a magazine (which, according to Ocean’s mother Katonya Breaux, you shouldn’t rush to buy on eBay quite yet, which seems to imply they’ll be available for purchase sometime soon). You gotta write it, edit it, do the lay-out, justify the margins on that shit, send it all to the printer, get proofs back, correct the proofs, send it back, hope the Pantone swatches turned out right. All of that.
Both Blond and Endless are available on iTunes. Boys Don’t Cry was available over the weekend in pop-up shops across the country—in New York, Ocean’s pop-up was about a 15-minute stroll from West’s Pablo pop-up in Chinatown—but it looks like it could become more widely available soon.