It has been nine years since Riki Michele's last release One Moment Please. A lot of water has passed under the proverbial bridge in nine years including her divorce from Gene Eugene, founder of the world's most under-appreciated, under-productive rock bands in history, Adam Again. Riki shook her lanky, whirling frame and sang background vocals for this great unknown, her haunting voice always adding a mysterious edge to the otherwise hard yet funky beat.
While her first album was na´ve and homespun and One Moment Please was a sophisticated blend of pop and rock, Surround Me is a mixture of trip-hop, electro soul, ethereal pop and chill out. As in the past, Riki writes and co-writes a good deal of the songs and her vocals are as enchanting as ever. Produced by the innovative Julian Kindred, the CD is full of intricate synth beats, inventive guitar tones, and imaginative keyboard washes. For instance, "Things I Mean", and a good many other tracks, feature Common Children's Marc Byrd on guitar, who weaves an intricate tapestry of effervescent guitar tones that shimmer throughout the song like starlight. "Mystery In Me" is upbeat, almost rock, with complex percussion and a very catchy melody perfect for capturing Michele's hypnotic voice. Sedate and seductive, "Giving Up" pairs whispered and sung vocals that open up to a bright and absorbing chorus. With a minimalist approach, "We Take It On" slowly builds with disco drums, funked bass, and sizzling synth tones. Of interest to Adam Again fans is "If I Remember", a mirror of the classic "The Tenth Song" from the album Ten Songs By Adam Again. Looking back after the death of Gene Eugene, Riki sings "If I remember/ Then let me remember / The sweetness." Recalling the feel of her first album is "Forever Bright", a relaxed song of acoustic guitars and no electronic beat, which is only natural as the song was written by Steve Hindalong who played a large role in the writing of that first release.
While electronic music with programmed drums is not exactly my simmering cup of tea, I've never been able to escape the gravitational pull of Riki Michele's voice. Repeated listens reveal production nuances and skillfully played, creatively written parts that appeal to even those like myself who normally eschew such music. You can download two songs and purchase Surround Me www.rikimichele.com.
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, April 2002.