- Benn Rymon, A Long Time
(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Plattsburgh, N.Y.-based producer and MC Benn Rymon has been working with beats and raps for more than a decade. Yet his new release, A Long Time, is also his debut album, reflecting some 15 years of songwriting and studio experiments.
First and foremost, then, it's impressive how early in the record Rymon finds his voice. There are no transitional moments here; his is a fully formed, electric persona. Rymon is a charming weirdo of a host with a flexible flow and a conversational cadence. His subject matter is delightfully scattered, and the album is a long, interesting ride.
The songs are short and carefully arranged and have a big cast of characters. Rymon is a central figure in Plattsburgh's burgeoning hip-hop scene, so it's fitting that A Long Time is such a family affair. Most tracks are collaborations, which can be a bad sign — rappers often rely on guest features to fill out anemic albums. But Rymon has real chemistry with everyone he works with here.
The production is funky and full, dense without ever sounding crowded. Rymon orchestrated almost everything himself, including layers of live instruments. The album's sound is pure hip-hop but owes as much to Dust Brothers-era Beck as it does to Large Professor.
Some of the record's party-vibe melodics hail from another Rymon connection: Plattsburgh jam band Lucid. He has known those gentlemen for years and even engineered their second album, DEWDMANWAH. Bassist Chris Shacklett brings a human touch to four tracks here, and chameleonic keyboardist Andy Deller does an especially impressive job of blending in throughout the LP.
Thanks to the deft touch of mastering engineer Adrian Carr, A Long Time hits like a major-label release, front to back. Carr nails the sweet spot, delivering an album that's loud and clear without losing any of the dynamics that make it breathe. It's the perfect canvas for an artist with range, ambition and a sly sense of humor.
If this album is any indication, Rymon's live show must be one hell of an entertaining circus. He's got an ear for beats, and solo tracks such as "Pass or Pull" make it clear he can rap his ass off when he wants to. It's telling, too, that he opted to spotlight his local roots on his own album. Rymon could easily have carried it himself, but by bringing his cohorts along he's given them — and listeners — something bigger and better.
A Long Time is a banging debut from a serious North Country talent. It also serves notice that Plattsburgh's emerging hip-hop scene is going to make a lot more noise in the near future. You've been warned.
A Long Time by Benn Rymon is available at bennrymon.bandcamp.com.