Riki is a synthpop act from Los Angeles featuring ex-Crimson Scarlet member Niff Nawor. She released a short EP back in 2017 entitled “Hot City” which served as a precursor sound-wise for her self-titled debut which was released in February 2020.

The cover artwork is simple enough, featuring a very androgynous looking photo of Nawor mackin’ it with the camera. In each corner of the cover are the letters that spell out “Riki.” I wouldn’t call it particularly original, but it definitely works. In the 70s and 80s this type of album cover was everywhere, especially when an artist went off on their own—like Phil Collins with Genesis or Sting with The Police.

Riki’s self-titled album channels a few different threads of music that reached the apex of their popularity back between 1978-1989. The first thread of her music has a cornerstone in the minimalistic Neu Deutsch Welle coldwave movement of West Germany that is a cross of acts like Visage, The Human League, and Nena. Riki’s “Come Inside” evokes a lot of this energy with it’s weird minimalistic leads and cold vocal style. The second thread of her music lies in Danceteria movement from New York City, Danceteria featured like Sonic Youth, Depeche Mode, and the Swans. The last and final thread lies in Nawor’s affinity for Italia disco aesthetics. This shines through especially Riki’s track “Napoleon” which is reminiscent of Sabrina’s “Boys” (1987) mixed with and Boney M’s “Rasputin” (1978).

It always astounds me to come across musicians like Nawor. It’s clear that there was a lot of attention to detail in production quality of Riki. It’s not only authentic sounding, but it also feels emotionally accurate for the time. Riki’s debut stands as a shining example of how music written in the 21st century can successfully emulate a completely different era independent of geographical location and personal experiences. If you’re are looking for a nostalgia trip that’ll make you feel like you’re in a European discotheque in 1984, you absolutely need to check out Riki.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Neu Deutsch Welle, coldwave, postpunk, Italian disco, and 80s synthpop.

Stand-out tracks: “Böse Lügen (Body Mix)” (aka the BEST track, so catchy), “Come Inside,” “Strohmann,” and “Napoleon.”

Album Color Profile: #880E4F

“BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED” is the latest “album” by nostalgic synthpunker(s) The Warhorse. It features ten microsongs with a total run time of about ten minutes. You read that right, The Warhorse produced a ten minute full-length album.

The cover of “BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED” is a pastiche of depthless post-postmodern insanity. There’s a very 1970s looking photograph of an ambiguously small person (who I’m assuming is a child) standing on the bottom left. This little creep is dressed in a clown suit, but apparently mom made him put on windbreaker. After all, Halloween is cold in the midwest. To be honest, you would think that the windbreaker would clash with the clown suit’s vibe but it actually works. Behind the little person is a house, a station wagon thing, and a basketball hoop. There’s also something strange happening on the far right side of the cover, I can’t tell if it’s a grill, a UFO (GRILL-FO), or something else. The photograph is framed by some very 80s looking wallpaper stained with who knows what. There are also some remnants of wrapping paper in the bottom right.

If I had to identify what The Warhorse sounds like I’d say it’s a mix of System of a Down, Psychostick, 1980s punk, vaporwave, and early 2000s grindcore. The audio fidelity of “BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED” is as you would expect: it sounds like it was recorded (with love) in a wet basement cellar somewhere in the midwest. As mentioned before, this album features microsongs that cut out all of the fat. Instead of meandering about, The Warhorse zeroes in only on what makes a song catchy. They don’t care about algorithmically engineered five second intros—they don’t have time for it. What’s left is a single verse and a chorus, and then the song ends. It reminds me of old commercial jingles—“Remote Control Dad” and “Balloonmaker” are indicative of this.

Micro song writing isn’t exactly a new concept. Aside from commercial jingles popularized between 1955-1995, the grindcore scene that Carcass (“Festerday”) and Napalm Death (“You Suffer”) came out produced a lot of this sort of thing in the 80s. Earache Records also released the shortest album ever with a total runtime of about a minute thirty back in 2012.

What makes “BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED” so goddamn bloody brilliant is that it is openly declaring war on social media culture by mocking it. The Warhorse is basically saying, “ya’ll motherfuckers are just going to scroll up on my music anyway, so this is all you’re getting.” As a thought experiment the idea of the ten minute album would seem crazy to me. But in execution, it absolutely works. With a whopping 40,000 songs being added to Spotify every single goddamn day something has to give. I mean—let’s do the math: 40,000 songs a day comes out to roughly 2000 hours of music. AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. Like—who is actually really listening to all of that? It takes me ten fucking minutes to listen to “BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED.”

While microsongs could be viewed as a complete joke, I think that the time is right for something like this to bleed over into the mainstream. I mean, just look at what’s happening to the Retrowave movement, almost all of the aesthetics that made it popular in the underground have been appropriated by mainstream artists. Could you imagine someone like Katy Perry taking just the hooks or bass drops of her songs turning them into one minute tracks and calling it good? It might sound crazy, but it could happen.

“BLEEDING WOUNDS UNEXPLAINED” manages to ride on the outer edges of so called vibe aesthetics while completely rejecting them altogether. This is an absolutely brilliant synthy punk album that is relevant in the moment. It offers a paradigm shifting social commentary on our attention spans, the music industry, and difference between what it means to be a music fan and an actual musician. If you have ten minutes to spare, check this out. It might change everything you thought you knew about music.

The album is fucking dead. Long live the album.

RECCOMENDED FOR: people who enjoy running through the street naked while on fire with scissors in their hands.

Stand-out tracks: “Remote Control Dad,” (batteries not included), “Hamberders,” “It’s Not You…Ok, yes it is”

Album Color Profile: #FF6666

You can find all things The Warhorse at https://thewarhorse.bandcamp.com/