ALBUM: Pink Label
There are great strides being made in the field of chopping beats since the proliferation of technology and the increasing ease of releasing material, prompting some real innovation from young producers. Among them is Minneapolis’ Psymun, who approaches glitched hip-hop grooves from a perspective that's familiar but still difficult to classify. It's a hybrid of Dilla-style sample-flipping alongside distorted chops and drone psychedelia, packaged as beats but sitting on multiple points of the instrumental music plane. It's immediately ear-catching while remaining strikingly subtle, sure to satisfy fans of various genres with "hop" and a hyphen and birth some new ones.
Pink Label, Psymun's latest solo effort, has a range of vocal guests yet remains primarily an instrumental album. Where verses and choruses lean short, a droning guitar or synth section will feel hypnotically long in length; coupled with the overall slow tempo of the short EP, this is an easy album to get lost within. This is exceptional glo-fi music, likely be remembered as some of the best avant-garde beats of the past few years. It's chill-wave heavy enough to illicit head-nods from the rap side of the aisle, though at times it shares that space only tangentially.
Included is a glimpse of Psymun's new group efforts with The Standard, with vocal appearances from collaborators Allan Kingdom, Bobby Raps, and Spooky Black. K. Raydio, who in December dropped a full-length with Psymun, shows up, along with and rapper Chester Watson. Meanwhile, new guest Kerry Roy of Bad Bad Hats brings a new sound to the table. Each contributor finds a different pocket of Psymun's elastic style, which swings between smokers-lounge R&B, chillwave cloud-rap, and ultra-minimal neo-soul, depending on who's involved. Besting the string of recent instrumental projects he's dropped recently is partially thanks to the increased number of vocalists, who reflect that Psymun is at the center of a scene full of like-minded hip-hop acts with a weird approach.
This is the answer to the question "Turn down for what?". Psymun provides electronic-influenced rap beats that are on the opposite end of the spectrum from the EDM drops of crossover trap. The attention given to the bass end makes it club friendly but Pink Label is laid-back come-down music, perfect for headphones or more intimate listening. Another in a succession of short-form solo projects, the EP format suits him and even seems to influence the style. Psymun will prolong certain waves of sound while cutting vocal portions early after a single verse or phrase, giving songs an intentional sparseness that nevertheless rarely feels incomplete. The quick runtime gives him the freedom to work through ideas without a prescribed sense of resolution, which allows the project to ebb as a singular entity while maintaining some great individual high points.
Working with K. Raydio found Psymun filtering off-kilter production into an R&B format, providing lush backdrops suited to her subtle range; left to his own devices, he seems to guide the work further into experimental territory. It's never so left-field that it alienates, always just off-kilter enough to agitate you into deeper readings. If you're looking simply for beats that bang, you'll be satisfied, but there are returns for those willing to sit with it. You'll notice the details more in this instrumental work, and Pink Label serves as a good entry point as well as a nice addition to the discography for those familiar with the backlog of material.
There's a clarity to Psymun's vision, and even as he reaches in multiple directions, he sustains a particular vibe. It's a truly unique voice in a landscape where so beats play as cookie-cutter. He juggles an array of subgenres so effortlessly that you can barely tell he's doing it. A solid project from front to back, it will likely goad listeners to delve into his larger body of work. It also gives the impression that there's still further he can push.
"Living in the land of the lost, telling folktales"