REVIEW: Riki – Riki (2020)

Riki is an electro pop album just shy of Italo disco. Long moody vocals and synth layering may remind you of Hounds of Love era Kate Bush, while heavy use of counter point melodies make Riki’s opening tracks shine with emotion (even if bordering on busy at times).

Lead single Napoleon sounds straight out of Italo disco icons Glass Candy’s playbook. Swelling pads and blippy high melodies complement upbeat drums and driving bass synth. Nearly everyone has a playlist this is a must for. But we begin see more artistic risks being taken with Know, an ethereal psychedelic track full of reversed snares and notable panning. Slow throbbing momentum is built up slowly, leaving a trail of fading reverb in its path.

Unfortunately, the second half of Riki is very true to most 80s pop albums: forgettable.

Earth Song’s excessively processed (auto tune?) vocal layering not only feels out of place with the song’s production, but also with the album’s overarching pastiche. There is something about Earth Song that doesn’t feel as thought out as much as the other songs. Neither fun or well crafted, the listener is left unable to escape from Earth Song’s cheesy lackluster lyrics (okay, what’s more 80s than that?).

Second to closing track Come Inside redeems some interest in the album. Wobbling synth kicks things off before a steady disco beat comes driving in. Riki’s short Ladytron-esque vocals are a rewarding departure from previous tracks. In a way, Come Inside would make a better Gorillaz track than any of the songs on Gorillaz – Humanz (2017). What can be learned from this? I’m uncertain.

Even when rolling on the rear wheels, Closing track Monumental is able to get us across the finish line. An ethereal vocal intro brings us to one of the album’s greatest dance-floor potential tracks. A processed break beat fill and its choice of synths divert from the album’s rigid 80s retro A-side but, at this point, that was long abandoned.

B-side filler or a lack in care of crafting each song have stained the album’s high marks. A shame, as there is great work on this album. The craft behind songs Napoleon, Böse Lügen (Body Mix), and Come Inside just aren’t shown on most other tracks. Aside from its lead single hit potential, Riki is a lukewarm electro pop album unable to reap the seeds it has sown.

But “don’t panic” if you like Riki. We have some recommendations we really believe in.

For fans of: Kate Bush, Glass Candy, David Borden

Like Riki? Give these a listen: e•motion, Knitted Abyss, Peter Zimmermann

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