Riki is the Los Angeles based dark synth-pop outfit commandeered by the mysterious Niff Nawor, a visual artist/musician active in the deathrock / anarcho-punk scenes of the California bay area (formerly a member of Crimson Scarlet), before founding her solo endeavor as Riki in 2017. Niff's desire to explore her own sound manifested in the recording of the Hot City cassette tape in 2017, which featured Chelsey Crowley of Crimson Scarlet, Skot Brown of Phantom Limbs and Peđaof Doomed to Extinction. Released on Commodity Tapes and later reissued on vinyl by the well-regarded Symphony of Destruction label, Riki followed the release of the single with several small tours and festival dates, performing with such acts as Light Asylum, Black Marble, and Trisomie 21.
For her self-titled debut for Dais, Riki explores courage, physicality, and romance across eight timeless synth pop anthems. Influences and ideas are worn proudly without deviating from fresh and daring electro-pop territory. Nostalgic cues can be heard ranging from Neue Deutsch Welle, early Adrian Sherwood productions, classic ZYX Italo Disco, Japanese Visual Kei and even classic new wave/pop like Pat Benatar, Kate Bush, and early Madonna. Lead single, "Napoleon," contains Riki's indelible sound design, reminiscent of 80's New York dance floor electro-pop that recalls the fusion of uptown and downtown styles and culture, told through Riki's present day West Coast narrative. For contrast, second single "Böse Lügen" was previously released in demo form and re-mixed to emphasize its commanding presence and addictive nature. Translated simply to "Wicked Lies" and sung completely in German, "Böse Lügen" moves away from the upbeat romanticism found throughout the album and commands serious self-reflection guised within an infectious dance floor anthem.
Riki invites listeners to "reveal their useless habits of complacency and fear...and witness their own rebirth, a rhythm universal"
Our take: I’ll echo Jeff’s comment from when he chose this LP as his staff pick last week: Riki’s debut EP, Hot City, was a cool-sounding record, but their debut LP for Dais is on a different level. With dance floor-ready drum machine rhythms, retro-futuristic synth sounds, and great vocal hooks, Riki’s debut is of a piece with recent releases by bands like Molchat Doma and Fatamorgana (not to mention more established groups like Boy Harsher and Adult.), and if you’re a fan of those bands (as I am!) you’ll love songs like “Strohmann” and “Earth Song,” the latter of which reminds me of my favorite Siouxsie and the Banshees records, particularly Juju and Tinderbox. While an LP full of great darkwave tracks like this would be more than enough to warrant my attention, Riki distinguishes themselves with their poppier tracks. In particular, “Napoleon” and the album highlight “Spirit of Love” are so tightly constructed and beautifully performed that I want to reach beyond the punk scene for comparisons, as these tracks (the latter in particular) are as well-crafted and memorable as any of Madonna’s 80s hits. I’ve already listened to this album so many times it’s become the soundtrack to my life for the past few weeks. If the world has any sense, I think you’ll see this record spread like wildfire in the coming months.