Dais Records

Riki ‘Riki’

The synth/darkwave scene is a genre, unfortunately, wrought with utter derivatives. Wading through the many generic goth acts that clog up Bandcamp is always worth the drudgery when discovering a Sixth June, SDH, and now, Riki.

Riki, the alias of L.A. artist and former Crimson Scarlet member Niff Nawor, swiftly cemented herself as an exciting new figure in the synthpop world with 2018’s Hot City E.P. and a string of support slots with Black Marble and Light Asylum. Teaming up with INHALT’s Matia Simovich for production duties, Riki’s affection for Neue Deutsche Welle , Italo disco and new wave pop have been poured into a bright debut album with an irresistibly lean, bold, and muscular sound.

The punch of a processed orchestral hit opens Riki, first track ‘Strohmann’ drenched in deeply satisfying ZTT Records style bombast, the pop of the snare and bassy throb leaping straight out of Trevor Horn’s E-Mu Emulator library. Its propulsive rhythm glides effortlessly with Riki’s understated vocals examining projected love onto the titular ‘Strawman’. ‘Napoleon’ is a fittingly confident and strident love letter to the French emperor that rushes to a stirring romance with unashamed killer pop hooks and Some Great Reward era production.

The weighty heft that leads the album is afforded moments of respite. The gorgeously seductive ‘Spirit of Love’ effortlessly pulses with delicate sequencers and brittle but infectious minimalism. Contemplative menace is channelled on the passionate ‘Böse Lügen’, a stirring tale of disenchantment sung entirely in German and a showcase of just how rousing Riki’s voice can be.

There is not a shred of irony or acerbity to be found on Riki, every moment is grounded in sincerity to make honest to god pop which excites the soul. Rich, decadent, and deeply romantic, Riki’s debut album is a fantastic conjuring of 80s pop while cutting a voice entirely her own.

VR SEX ‘HORSEPLAY’

The long march of progress hasn’t yielded the fruits we were promised. At the dawn of automated labour, the digital revolution, and the universe of information at our disposal, you’re still a wage slave working overtime with a tie round your neck like a noose, in a world mired with environmental degradation, political demagoguery, and the creeping commodification of the last remaining remnants of the human experience. As the rapacious demands of the free-market trash the planet and swallow you whole, you search desperately for an answer, then in comes a strange new theory: P.S.R.S. (Procreation Simulation Reproduction Stimulation). Be done with facing the failures of humanity and your subjection to it, plug in to a world of virtual reality hedonism, satisfy your perversions and desires, and inadvertently participate in the curbing of population growth. It might just work.

The preachers of this reverse Ludovico Technique are VR SEX, an L.A synthpunk trio comprising former members of Drab Majesty and Heroin, all clad in Westworld/Personal Jesus cowboy and shades leather. Born from a consensus of mass consumerism and slavish devotion to technology comes their debut EP HORSEPLAY, four tracks of melodic power-pop which shines from the heart underneath abrasive deathrock.

Paranoia and impending doom is declared on EP opener ‘LANDMINE’, crisp punchy drums beat down like the doomsday clock, indie jangly guitar permeate with discordant fat synth lines, singer Noel Skum crooning menacingly like Andrew Eldritch. ‘EVERYTHING’S FINE’ features a sublime and almost sunny pop hook beneath its noxious veneer, throbbing synth basses straight from New Order’s Technique, before pivoting to the artificial rock of ‘A SHOT AT LOVE’, complete with a howling synthesizer solo, Pere Ubu fighting with Pixies. Fetid turns to funky with closer ‘The Watchers’, teasing the dark with analogue synth-pop light, programmed drum fills binding Skum’s cop radio ridden vocals.

Technocratic nightmares and social media erosion of the physical has been channeled into a punchy, cyberpunk gem of an EP, honoring their industrial heritage while not falling for the genres clichés. With a full length LP out in May, VR SEX look set to be the contemporary soundtrack to our neoliberal miasma.