When nothing feels new, we as humans reach for the old, extend a hand to what is comfortable and safe. Nostalgia reigns supreme as a result, as creators try to strike a balance between those creature comforts and a new monster altogether. In the synthpop and post-punk worlds, this struggle is pervasive, but making it look all too easy is Los Angeles songstress Riki. On her second record Gold, what was old is new again, as Riki takes a bold step forward in an institutional genre.
“Lo” starts things off sonically in the late Eighties, especially in the quieter verses with a swelling, chime-laden chorus. The bassline is hum-worthy on this infectious opening track, before sliding into goth rock territory on “Marigold,” which might be my personal favorite track on the disc. It rides the line between bouncy and moody, maintaining a danceable rhythm with gliding synth licks. “Oil and Metal,” the instrumental intro in particular , wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Depeche Mode’s Violator, but while the track calls back to more familiar melodies, the shimmery synth work is what gives that recognizable tune a fresh coat of paint. The structure of the dueling vocal lines, one talk-sung and one emphatically crooned, is a nice nod to the song’s title as well.
The chilled-out, dub-informed “It’s No Secret” is a cloud walking number, with delay-steeped guitar interludes and a minimal drum part. It’s one of a handful of tracks with a smooth sax lick, giving a big city feel to this otherwise ephemeral song. “Sonar” is vocal-forward with a plucky bass groove. It is here that we see Riki’s full vocal range, be it her singing us to slumber or urging us closer to that old haunt. On the subject of old haunts, the opening to “Last Summer” is as post-punk as we get, with tubular bass lines and the odd chorus-tinged guitar moment. Aside from “Marigold,” this may be the most radio-ready, “puts the ‘pop’ in synthpop” track of the album.
Within “Viktor” lies the very definition of grey sky guitar, though the song is a synthpop number first and foremost. There’s a stirring beauty about this track, a reverent admiration of sorts. The final two tunes, “Porque Te Vas” and “Florence and Selena” are just fun, the former for its Latin flavor and hypnotic vocal melody, and the latter for its retro-futuristic flavors, and the return of that swinging saxophone. All told, we make our way back around to that Eighties synthpop flavor we began with, but the song is far from the same.
If her sound is this dynamic and sweeping on only her sophomore outing, imagine what Riki can do in the future. Gold is a joy of a record that must not slip under the radar of an avid synthpop fan. There is plenty to dance to here, but there’s perhaps even more to get lost in on a first or second listen. It’s fresh, and for a style of music that has one super-prominent touchstone or point of reference, that is nothing short of an achievement.
COLD WAVES is a celebration of Chicago’s relationship with industrial music, the memory of a fallen brother, and a fundraiser for suicide prevention charities. In the summer of 2012, Chicago lost one of its most loved and respected sound engineers and musicians, Jamie Duffy. His work ethic and ingenuity in the local music scene was a gift to many musicians. His abrupt passing had a profound effect on the electronic and metal music communities he meant so much to. In need of healing and hope, we brought 14 bands together for one magical night that year to raise money for Jamie’s family and say goodbye. But in the end, it was more of an awakening… a rebirth… a breaking wave. The success of the show pushed us to build it into an annual event, stretching over a weekend and moving it to Chicago’s iconic Metro.
Cold Waves means a lot. It is a true culmination of everything great about this scene. People from all over the world coming together to meet and celebrate music, art, unity, and holding each other up through the darkest times. To remember Jamie and everyone who felt lost and alone. A hope that the scene will be there to lend strength to someone else in trauma tomorrow. It’s first and foremost a celebration of what makes life worth living. Music, art, friendship, and empathy. I attended this year Saturday and Sunday. To see old friends and new. To hear music that will lift my heart at a time I need it most. That is what really makes this special, more than a music festival. Especially in this time of pandemic when our online friendships have become something real to sustain us. This four day festival attended by fans and artists from all over the world turns faces on a screen into reality. A summer camp of outcasts that return each year to bask in the glow of music and lights. I previously covered Thursday and Friday so I will pick up on Saturday night.
“You’ll hear the term “family” thrown around Cold Waves a lot. It’s true. For a lot of us it’s the place we all have a reunion. I get to see friends in the crowd and on stage from all over the world, and since it’s in Chicago, the U.S. Mecca of industrial, you’ll see people from the Wax Trax hey day just walking around and chatting with everyone. There’s a real sense and respect for the history of industrial– past, present, and future. It’s always a joy being a part of it, whether performing or as a spectator.” Matt Fanale (Caustic/Klack/Daddybear)
Panterah – Information about this Chicago electronic artists is a tad hard to track down. No bandcamp page, instagram, youtube. You can still find releases of their previous incarnation Fee Lion. Large crowd from the beginning drawn in to these razor nails up your back danger pop. Great set to fill you with intrigue for the future of this project and the future of the night.
Provoker – LA based slushy layered dark alternative casting smoky hues through color gels. Lovely range to the vocals but every part of that spectrum is gorgeous. On a night with so much electronic magnificence it was wonderful to hear this driving fuzzy guitar centered sound. I didn’t know much going in, but I was completely won over and eagerly await the new album.
ADULT. – So I have seen Detroit based ADULT 4 times, shockingly never in Detroit where I am from. Adult is one of those artist that is an experience more than a band. A stage show of bouncing bolts of electricity cascading around the room. Humming electronic waves that create a vehicle for high brow lyrical concepts and husky chanting vocals. I love how through decades they continue to find a way to be on the edge of an evolving scene. The performance sent people running to the stage wondering what is happening and how can I get more.
Barker and Connelly – Two living legends putting aside all pretention and just having fun together shredding the ever loving shit out of a set while the audience stared in raptured attention. Two members of Ministry just smiling and unloading sonic obliteration in a shimmering drift between styles and intensity. This performance was just what you would hope for. They are preforming for the LA Cold Waves and if you have the chance, trust me don’t miss this.
Front 242 – Speaking of living legends. Belgium EBM pioneers brought a performance energy and excitement and 25 year old would be proud of. Including unveiling a new track. It’s madness that in 2021 a band I saw when I was 15 is still unleashing such unbridled energy in a live performance. As Chase Dobson said “Front 242, yes that Front 242”
Before the performance Sunday I got to have another amazing experience. A chance to go have pancakes with Martin Atkins at the Post Punk Industrial Museum. It was a dream come true for the experiences and stories he shared. Everyone needs to see this for themselves.
WINGTIPS – Chicago breakout Dreamwave band I have seen two other times. Never like this though. This performance was another level. It just tells me that they keep growing and elevating. After witnessing some mainstays with decades of performance under their belts, to hear someone open Sunday night full of exponential growth built my excitement for the whole night. In my opinion it was the standout performance of the night. It can be a razor line riding between nostalgia and modern. Wingtips do that with fearless precision and theatrical flare. After just two albums, I hunger for what their future holds.
Riki – LA based song siren who I had shockingly never heard before the festival. I think the best word to describe this performance is vibrant. The music has a very new wave throwback sound and the vocals are delivered with a series of bright and brilliant hues. The call and answer dueling delivery was a dialog full of soul and passion. I was an instant fan. A crackling sexy energy that flows through your limbs and demands movement.
Bootblacks – Brookland post punk darlings are on a rocketship of growth and excitement. They have the look, they have the moves, they have a sound that rings unique in a rising tide of the post punk style. Every time I see them I am watching a better band. Larry is an absolute beast on the drums, maybe the best in the scene. When you build on a base of that much fury and power, it makes everything else ring out with a performance that leaves you changed. The communication between each part is a type of family energy from the band that can’t be faked. The way each transition and timing happens without a pinprick of space between. Panther’s confidence and ownership of the audience has reached a real maturity and control. It feels like seeing Nick Cave, in his ability to make a large room feel intimate. Barrett and Alli are playing a complex match of high speed electric tennis sending melodies and leads back and forth in neon chaos. This is one of those bands people will be saying “I was there that night” ten years from now.
“Getting to play Cold Waves the first time around in 2019, was a huge honor. It’s a perfect blend of some of our favorites as well as a new wave of fresh faces, many of whom we’ve had the pleasure of sharing stages with around the world. But in addition to the show itself, Cold Waves in general is a community of like minded lovers of the scene. Some of the friendliest people we’ve ever come across. We were welcomed with open arms the first time around, but to be invited to come back and play this year felt triumphant. The love we received the whole weekend after 2 years of not being able to play shows, was so reaffirming and desperately needed. Everyone involved, staff, crew, security, organizers, bands, and of course, the fans, all came together and gave us memories that we will hold onto for the rest of our lives. We are eternally grateful. Barrett Hiatt (Bootblacks)
Korine – The Philly based TranceGaze act which are beauty encapsulated in their sound and aesthetic. I had never seem them live before this night and it took my breath away. You can feel the sound pouring over your skin like cool clean water. Seeing that crowd sway in sync with each song, it was a psychic dream and we were all sharing it in that moment. I will never miss a chance to see this band again.
Stabbing Westward – Then a special treat happened. LA’s Electro rock masters SW took the stage and I was transported to my bedroom as a 16 year old kid, mad because some girl done me wrong. Chris’s voice isn’t just preserved, it’s sharper and cleaner. They played a cover of The Cure’s “Burn” and I don’t say this lightly, it sounded better than Robert Smith. I was even blown away when some tech issues arose and Chris shifted into stand up comedian story teller mode and kept the crowd in the palm of his hand. It was dynamic, it was emotional, it was everything you want from a rock show. My knees were shaking, and then they played “Save Yourself”…I tried hard not to be a mark for the single, but I couldn’t stop. I got misty and belted along.
This isn’t just a festival, it isn’t just four days of heat stopping music. It’s a scene coming together for a wonderful cause and embracing each other. Holding each other up in dark times and saying we share something. Music matters and can still be the bond that ties us. If you feel like this has been missing, plan a trip for 2022. We are all waiting for you. We are all ready to be your people.