Review: Ryan Hemsworth - "RYANPACK (volumes 1 and 2)"

Ryan Hemsworth - RYANPACK (volumes 1 and 2)
(2013, 2015 Self-Released)

Resting cozily between SOPHIE's rubbery, sugarcoated synthscapes and Yung Gud's vaporous textures in the spectrum of forward-thinking electronic production, Ryan Hemsworth's body of work seems to be the product of a hip-hop alchemist. I often imagine the Canadian beatmaker hunched over a cauldron looking somewhat like Gargamel, pouring flasks of chiptune, new-age, and pop-punk influences into his signature atmospheric cloud-rap brew. If there's any selection from Hemsworth's discography that displays the full breadth of his creativity and experimentation, it's his ongoing "RYANPACK" mixtape series, of which the second installment was released this week. Each pack includes 10 tracks worth of lovably goofy remixes that share an aesthetic that can be compared to J-Pop, chillwave, even Cocteau Twins at times.

Hemsworth's inaugural RYANPACK, released in 2013, is a rawer, but perhaps more imaginative predecessor to this year's mixtape. Acting as a survey of the producer's influences and quirks, RYANPACK volume 1 gives its listeners a taste of his fondness for sparkling glockenspiel, reverby vocals and lush, often orchestral arrangements. Hemsworth's beat for Que's "OG Bobby Johnson" replaces the original tune's sinister combination of throbbing bass and phantasmal synths with shimmering steel drums and breathy, chopped-up vocal samples. It's a wonderful example of his ability to take even the grittiest, most aggressive song and morph it into something cuddly and lovable. His "Game Boy Advance Remix" of "Kush Coma", cloaks Danny Brown's unhinged, dynamic delivery in a wearable blanket, comfy slippers and warm vocaloid melodies. The mixtape culminates in a hilariously melodramatic version of "Real Talk" by R. Kelly.

In addition to remixes of recently released tracks by Drake and Chicago's criminally underrated Sicko Mobb, RYANPACK volume 2 bizarrely makes a foray into pop-punk. Track 3 is a bouncy version of Blink-182's "Feelin' This": Mark Hoppus' and Tom DeLonge's vocals are nearly buried beneath a heavy layer of tremelo while Hemsworth laces the tune with light touches of tinny synthesizer. This stunt is pulled off most successfully on Hemsworth's version of "Plane vs Tank vs Submarine" by Tiger's Jaw, which employs skittering percussion and trellises of electric piano.