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

REVIEW: Peter Zimmermann – VAPORDISCO (2019)

Playing with the same 80s synth aesthetics nearly dragged to death by Stranger Things and the synthwave craze, Peter Zimmermann’s budget disco sound and cover art aesthetics are still exciting for Italo disco fans both dedicated and casual (such as myself).

VAPORDISCO gives itself to its namesake. Smooth sample chopping weaves behind the scenes of slow grinding rhythms complemented by arpeggio synth lines while 80s pop samples are pitched down to create the muddied effect of vaporwave classics.

Warm low kicks and reverb-hazy snares teeter back and forth, complemented by nearly inconsequential hi-hat patterns. Only on the 4th track E X H A L E does VAPORDISCO’s rigid 1s and 3s drum machine pattern face any kind of shake-up (which even then is minimal). Unfortunately, tracks like I NEED YOU fail to enhance or create anew from its sample usage. While the songs aren’t bad by any means, it can leave someone familiar with the source material feeling fairly underwhelmed.

The album’s energy does pick-up midway through with THE NIGHT; a pumping ethereal rollerskating jam sounding like Depeche Mode producing Michael Jackson’s Thriller. From here the album is more artistically ambitious, energized and ready to roll. It’s-, well, thrilling. The overarching theme of the album proceeds to pay off almost entirely from the midway point.

Now energized, VAPORDISCO’s hedonic approach lends itself to the fun and levity one needs to appreciate the non-political escapism that vaporwave has to offer. Once sold on the album’s fun side, VAPORDISCO allows itself to go slightly moodier with VAPORBOI before setting like the sun with hazy closing track YOUR BODY.

Time to hit the rink.

For fans of: Glass Candy, Night Tempo, Naked Eyes

Like Peter Zimmermann? Give these a listen: e•motion, Jaguardini, Niveum

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