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

NNHMN (aka Non-Human Persons) is a minimal wave duo from Berlin, Germany. I accidentally discovered them last year after I went on a post-punk binge. To say that I’m in absolute love with NNHMN is an understatement. To me—they’ve done no wrong. They are aesthetically and musically flawless. I truly think they are doing the (dark) Lord’s work here on earth. The Minimal synth revival is currently having a bit of a moment, and in my opinion, NNHMN is the spearhead.

“Shadow in the Dark” is NNHMN’s third full-length. It had some big shoes to fill as the follow up to “Church of No Religion.” And let me just say, it doesn’t disappoint. “Shadow in the Dark” sounds like the soundtrack to the most dank 1980s goth club you’ve ever had the displeasure of stepping into. The production quality is warm, especially for an album that is so goddamn cold. There’s a grainy, hissy quality to “Shadow in the Dark” that makes me feel like it was made on an analog four-track tape recorder. And if it wasn’t, it definitely sounds legitimate. To further paint illustrate what NNHMN is like, take one lo-fi randomized bass sequence, one drum loop, and some sparse synths to add a little air to the high-end. Repeat it over and over again. Now add subdued, cold vocals with a light plated reverb to the mix. This isn’t something groundbreaking or new, and in theory it shouldn’t work—but it totally does.

It’s hard to say exactly what’s going on with the artwork for “Shadow in the Dark.” It’s by a really talented painter named Aleksandra Waliszewska, who does a lot of this sort of thing. I honestly think that it’s a gorgeous piece which perfectly matches up with the grotesque spirit of “Shadow in the Dark.” Which is very much like listening to a beautiful, cold, faceless clone of Wednesday Addams with something ugly in sitting in her open head surrounded by lamprey-like teeth.

I’ve always admired artists that can take a sound from a bygone era and recreate it flawlessly. Ultimately, I think that the greatest potential for creative output arrives when an artist perfects an old formula and builds upon it with subsequent releases. Deathspell Omega, did this type of thing for Black Metal when they released “Si Monumentum Requires Circumspice,” and I think that NNHMN could follow suit—only with Minimal Wave. “Shadow in the Dark” is unsettling, groovy, calm, and oddly chic.

And I know it’s a little late at this point, but it was totally album of the year for me 2019. I’ve listened to this one…a lot.

Anyway…GO CHECK THIS ONE OUT. RIGHT MEOW.

RECCOMMENDED FOR: Non-human persons, people who have permanent resting bitch face, minimal wave enthusiasts.

Stand-Out Tracks: “Shadow in the Dark,” “Scars,” “Der Unweise,” “Vampire,” “Special,” “Black Sun” (ALL OF THEM)

Album Color Profile: #000000

You can find all things NNHMN at https://nnhmn.bandcamp.com/