PHOTO CREDIT: Varvara Photography
While the Love Is Gone
While the Love Is Gone is available at:
Pop; Alternative; Electro.
31st May, 2017
I have been meaning to review Rivita for a while so I am glad…
I get the chance to do so now. Before I come to look at her current single, I wanted to talk about a few things. I will discuss Electro. sounds and fusion; fostering a love of music as a child; musicians and sounds from New Delhi; music study and following your passion through academic routes; utilising vocal samples and creating music that differs from everything else out there – a bit about why I am backing female musicians and calling for greater equality in the industry. The past few weeks have seen me investigate Folk musicians and that kind of music. It has been great but, one feels, something different is needed this week. Rivita is an artist who takes Pop, Electro. sounds and fuses them together. It is an arresting concoction that has colour, fizz and electricity. I do love to hear Pop and Electronic mixed because it is not as easy as you might think. There are quite a few artists in this genre but the results can be rather mixed. For me, Electro.-Pop is defined by inventiveness, emotion and uplift. One must hear contrasts and depth; a certain something you do not get from any other type of music. If one looks at the best Electro.-Pop albums of this year; we see a real sense of endeavour and magic. Goldfrapp’s Silver Eye has thumping beats and exhilarating synths. Switching between urgent and passionate; through to Folk and pastoral sounds – it is an album that never stands still and has plenty of standout moments. Maybe it is not a radical shift for the duo themselves – a metamorphosis is required to push their sound on – but they show why they’re one of the most respected acts in music. Similarly, Soulwax’s From Dewee is a progression that dispenses the Nu-Rave bangers and mash-ups in favour of something mature, funky and melodic. A more economical and focused release than we are used to: there is ample groove and fun to be discovered on a brilliant album. Halsey’s Hopeless Fountain Kingdom is another exceptional album that has spirit and vibrancy with plenty of emotion and depth.
Looking back at last year’s best of the bunch; Kero Kero Bonito’s Bonito Generation was an example of how a quirky and hugely energetic album could not only appeal to a mass audience but seem relatable and loveable. It has its rough moments but, on the whole, was a charming and compelling effort. The same can be said of James Blake’s The Colour in Anything and NAO’s For All We Know. Blake’s album impressed me with its darker textures and swooning vocals; electronic experimentations and deeply engrossing songs – a man opened his heart and revealing his soul. Throw in Wild Beasts’ Boy King – sexy, strutting and tough – and the assorted colours and uplifting summer smashes of M83’s Junk and there is a hell of a lot of range in the genre. Electro.-Pop is a form that has malleability and huge popularity. I am seeing a lot of modern artists work in this field but few making really interesting and original variations. Rivita is somebody who mixes her heritage (more soon) with tastes of the mainstream – concocting something extraordinary and different. I guess it is hard separating yourself from the crowd whilst creating music that has popular appeal and will resonate with a large number of people. Rivita is someone who has a great musical background and grew up with a lot of different sounds. One can hear her background and upbringing in the music – the sound of someone who always looks forward and finds new ways to create. It is exciting seeing such a confident and talented young artist add spirit, dynamism and personality to a genre that is among the best out there. Whilst there are some failed attempts in the Electro.-Pop genre; those albums I have just listed show you what can happen when you take chances and get it absolutely right. They may exceptions but there are plenty of young newcomers who have the potential to rival the best from the mainstream.
It is vital, I think, growing up around music and being exposed to terrific artists. One of the issues with many chart/young acts if their music education is quite limited. A lot of them are raised on the sounds of the time but rarely experience artists further back. I fear many young artists are losing touch with history and forgetting the legends that brought music forward. It would be sad was we to reach a time when the greatest bands/artists ever are forgotten or barely remembered. Maybe it will not be that extreme but there is a genuine worry many artists are not being reared on a diet of the new and old. You can tell this when listening to a lot of chart songs. I am not going to slag the sector off (again) but there is that need for modernity and newness. If one wants to discover a musician who fuses older music with new; quite often, you need to step away from the charts acts and look elsewhere. Rivita discovered music very young and was deeply fascinated with it. I, myself, did not discover music quite so young but made up for lost time as a child. In my house, there were legends like The Beatles and Pink Floyd playing but I was listening to artists from the 1940s and stuff from the 1980s. Growing up through the 1990s, I immersed myself in all the different shades and options available. Rivita has the same attitude and picked up the guitar as a child – there was no looking back after that. Joining her school choir; she had the chance to display her passion for music and get a first-hand experience of performance. From then, that passion and curiosity grew. I guess she would be a musician were she to discover music later in life but the fact she bonded with it so young means that spark was lit sooner and (Rivita) had that fuller education.
I fear, with the digitisation of music, people are less curious and too obsessed with what is new and recommended. Back when vinyl was not an ironic purchase – being used as art, as many do – one would sift through the racks to discover that classic L.P. or hidden treasure. The same could be said of C.D.s but, now, I am seeing fewer people look back and discover/rediscover wonderful music. Aside from limiting their knowledge and scope; it is having that effect on modern music where a lot of young talent are sounding the same and fitting into a very narrow pigeon-hole. If you embrace all forms of music young – your palette extending through genres and decades – that discipline follows you and leads to a more rounded and cultured music-lover. Apply this to someone like Rivita and she is as exceptional and nuanced because she pulls her background and childhood loves together with sounds she is vibing to now. This is encouraging to see and, one hopes, this will compel other artists to think deeply about music and not confine themselves to what is fashionable and new. In Rivita’s case, she was a girl who was struck by the music bug and wanted to explore its full potential. Wind the clock forward and one can hear the blossoming, peacock-like impressions of her music – wonderful plumage with majestic colours and heady scents. The bouquets and scents evoked are matched with spice, flavour and sumptuous ingredients. It may sound like I am describing an Asian delicacy – lest I go into stereotyping and lazy journalism – but Rivita’s music has that physical and instant allure; it creates impressions and memories after you have listened and provokes you to discover her lineage and the sort of sounds she is inspired by – for me, at the very least. One need only take a listen to While the Love Is Gone and you are blown away by its electricity and beauty. An artist who is unconcerned with so-called ‘trends’ and makes music honestly and genuinely. She appeals to those who prefer proper music that engages the mind: not that which provides empty and hollow satisfaction – with no lasting legacy.
That upbringing I mentioned started in New Delhi. It has been a number of months since I have reviewed an Asian artist so it is good to be back in India. In terms of modern music in New Delhi; there are traditional sounds and artists but, one wonders, how much of the West can be heard? In many nations, they have adopted the music of the U.K. and U.S. and this extends to India – in terms of music played on their popular stations, one would imagine. It is hard to say how many local artists have that same sound: or whether the music in New Delhi is limited to something more traditional. For Rivita, she would have been witness to a lot of fascinating sounds and musicians in her home city. It would have been an eye-opening experience that would have hit her in the heart – and led to that epiphany concerning following that path. The sort of music she would have heard is quite extraordinary. Much more colourful and beguiling than many of us are used to; I have listed to a lot of Indian artists (old and new) and think more artists here would do good to take inspiration. Of course, we know bands like The Beatles who fused Indian sounds into their albums but how many modern artists do?! Downstairs at Zo is one of New Delhi’s première music venues and brings a mix of contemporary music and dance. Many of us will look at a nation like India and, assuming there are not many modern/relevant artists there, overlook it in favour of other nations. Whilst it might not be as productive as Europe and North America; the Asian sub-continent is spilling-over with incredible music and mystical sounds. Our experience of Indian music might be limited to that which we hear on T.V. and film but there is so much more than that. Even though Rivita is based in London; she would have taken a lot with her and carries her home wherever she goes.
Not only did Rivita pick up music from a young age but she enrolled in the British and Irish Institute of Modern Music. It is a prestigious and exceptional facility that is preparing some of our best musicians for the responsibilities and demands of the industry. I have been a bit mixed about music schools/institutes because we hear a lot about places like the BRIT School and its alumnus. I am not completely critical of the place but the graduates we hear about do not produce music good enough to warrant the sort of attention they get. Step away from those kinds of places and, as is the case with B.I.M.M. and you find artists like Rivita. Her time there would have been invaluable. She would have learned about different disciplines and sides to music. When there, she followed a desire to compose (more in a bit) but would have been afforded a rich and detailed education. It is not, as one might think, a preparation course for the mainstream. Many music schools, their Vocal courses, tend to mould students to sound like popular artists and are unwilling to promote individuality and experimentation. For Rivita, she was never going to sound like anyone else but I am glad she was not led down a mainstream path. I am fascinated by what goes on in musical schools/colleges and what kind of programmes one is taught. From Rivita’s perspective, I guess composition would have been a big draw. I debate whether those who self-teach and develop their careers (without education) are more original and natural or whether education is a great way of accruing new skills and better insight into the music industry. Surely, one is told about every stage of music – promotion and distribution – but it is the bare-bones and soul of music that is most valuable. Learning a range of skills and insights; it is no surprise Rivita followed an interest in composition for film and T.V.
In my view, blending a natural intuition with some education is the right balance. Rivita had that experience as a youngster but, keen to expand her knowledge and skills, set about the academic route. It must be a nourishing and enriching experience being surrounded by like-minded people. In the classroom environment, one is able to receive structured lectures but able to engage and express themselves through exercises. I would recommend any artist who has the chance to formulate a structured plan that combines education with some serious retrospection. Riffle through those classic albums and discover the best of the current crop. Then, if you can enrol on a music course of some degree, that is going to strengthen your foundations and make you a wealthier artist. For Rivita, she has that vital study in London and continued on to follow a course in film and T.V. composing. That, not only goes into her current music – the cinematic nature and wide scope – but will help her in the future. Having that string to the bow means she can compose for T.V. shows and films and will be, one hopes, in-demand in the future. It will be interesting to see whether Rivita will pursue composition full-time or mix it with songwriting. Whatever she decides, she has achieved this because of education and commitment. If you are a serious musician, I would say study and academia is a smart move. It does not take away any of your own voice and mean you will be turned into a chart-focused mainstream artist. That is the case with some academies but, if you choose wisely, you can avoid that and foster your own voice. Not only that but obtain lots of skills that will help in your music – and when it comes to the more business-minded side of the industry. These courses give you all you need as a musician but, because there are so many components and aspects to consider in this age, they are tailored to that.
I will move on to the music in a bit but, right now, a look at vocal samples and music that differs – a nod to the great female artists and their innovation. Rivita hails from India so, naturally, would have had some exposure to the type of sounds and traditions the country is famed for. I guess we all get a cliché view of a nation and assume their ‘national’ music is all there is – like Spain and Germany for instance. Western music is as common (if not more so) in nations like India and they have modern Pop stars too. The soundscapes Rivita brings to songs like While the Love Is Gone, yes, stems from Indian influences but also reflects her wide range of tastes. It is fascinating seeing artists go beyond the simple and everyday and embracing something kaleidoscopic and adventurous. You have to hear it to get a sense of what I am talking about but Rivita puts vocal samples and multi instruments together to fuse something spectacular and colourful. It intoxicates the mind and gets the listener infused, invigorated and fascinated. There are so few that have that kind of approach to music. The last artist I reviewed that had this stylistic dynamic was ADI – the Israel-based Future-Beats artist. She laces strange and quixotic electronic samples together with instrument samples which build an atmosphere and soundscape. Rivita, one suspects, takes this approach because of her love for film and T.V. When she does come to compose for that medium; one feels the music she is providing now will be just the sort one will see in a fantastic Indie film or kick-ass comedy-drama, perhaps. Who knows. She can go where she wants and has armed herself for the future. Her music, as is now, is spectacular and is a young woman unafraid to explore boundaries and push her limits. I have written pieces about sampling and whether it is a dying artform. Certainty, given the costs and legal obstacles one must negotiate; fewer artists are creating albums like Paul’s Boutique, Odelay and Since I Left You.
Those are some of the greatest albums of the past few decades and I would love to see more of them created. Whilst Rivita is creating her own samples – rather than taking from other songs – I hear the same sort of approach and intention as acts like Beastie Boys. Whether this blossoms and we see the samples/soundscape expand, I am not sure, but it is great hearing something original and surprising in Rivita’s music. I cannot wait to hear what arrives in the coming months because, on the evidence of While the Love Is Gone, she is an artist in top form. There are a lot of terrific female musicians around right now and, as is traditional with me, I feel there should be greater representation on the main stages. I will not flog my point to death but hope the likes of Rivita will compel the festival organisers and decisions-makers into making changes and improving current practice. There are so many great female artists doing something different and pushing boundaries. I am always championing female artists and wondering why they do not get the same rights and respect as the men. It is not something I will dive back into but find it interesting artists like Rivita can create incredible music and it seems like, to some, a surprise. She has always been a fantastic songwriter and has proved it with While the Love Is Gone. A triumphant and fascinating song from someone who is going to go a long way in the industry. It is not good enough we have this lack of balance so, I hope, things will change soon enough. In the meantime, it is promising to discover some wonderful female artists and people like Rivita. She is not someone who does what everyone else does – swimming against the mainstream to bring us music that hits the head, heart and soul. Maybe her upbringing has played a role but she has that great education and passion for music which all plays its part.
The first track from her forthcoming E.P.; While the Love Is Gone begins with a hero whose eyes glitter. There are stars, haze and daze in a heroine who seems rather awestruck by the situation. Maybe it was a conceit and mislead but, as one investigates those first moments, there seems to be some admiration and affection. The initial words build from electronics and sounds which deliver a surprising selection of sounds. There is Electro.-Pop and World touches with some Grime and Hip-Hop toughness. It is shadowy and foreboding but has light and energy radiating from it. Couple this with a vocal delivery that mixes compassion and warmth with something more direct and edgy and it is a fascinating concoction. I was intrigued by the lyrics which seem to suggest there was a bond and romance but, maybe, things have taken a turn. The heroine, in the first verse, explained there is/was a galaxy far, far away with the hero’s name on it; tony stars brightly shining – he was so high. It is a lofty and admiring view of someone and, imagining that, one views the title as a need to rekindle that romance – rather than someone leaving and breaking hearts. It only takes a matter of seconds to become engrossed in the song and compelled by everything going on. It is busy and stunning start to the song that introduces Rivita’s strong and agile voice and her full and variegated compositions. Given her study and compositional skills; it is not surprising to discover a song that has such nimbleness and strength. Perhaps the hero has too many people on his mind; perhaps there are games being played it is a lot harder than it should be. I was surprised to hear suggestions of indiscretion and unfaithfulness.
Opening with something so heartfelt and pure; maybe the love is not as strong as one first imagines. Surely, the man has to focus and it seems, whilst he is away, other women are on his mind. Perhaps distance is between them – emotionally and geographically – and that is putting a strain on the relationship. It is heart-breaking imagining our heroine doubting her man’s fidelity and having to lay down this ultimatum. From one perspective, one sees a woman who has that affection for the hero and does not want the love to go cold. On the other, the caution bulbs are lit and there is a distinct wariness. Whilst the mine chews over the lyrics; running alongside it is a composition and vocal that changes course and pace. The chorus is a big and emphatic thing but remains dignified and controlled. It is a double-edged sword and reflection of social and romantic mores in this century. Maybe there is a casualness and lack of commitment. Things are so quick and accessible; there is a requirement for a quick fix and instant gratification – it is harder cementing relationships and finding honesty. Maybe that is cynical but it is the way our heroine’s life is unfolding. She found a man, she thought, would be there are unquestioningly honest. It seems, whilst the cat is away, he is getting the cream. No sense of shame and apology: a man who has his eyes trained on other girls. In lesser songs; the songwriter might pour scorn and create something lacking wisdom and depth. Here, Rivita looks at the modern-day romantic contract and realises how fragile it is. Even if you have someone (you feel) will never err and stray; it is not always that assured and safe. Rivita’s Eastern background meets with Western sounds to produce something imaginative and fusion. The crackling and rifled beats sit with emotive and full-bodied electronics. It is a wonderfully realised composition that conveys the emotion, confusion and anger being felt.
The end stages see the heroine lost in a mantra of hope and rescue – “Find me, oh” is repeated as a sort of call-out and cry for help. She wonders where her man is and whether he is thinking of her. Rivita’s control of the song – she directed the video and produces the song – means While the Love Is Gone comes from a very personal place. I query whether this relationship is over and whether it remains still. Perhaps it is a hard time for her but she has overcome the hurdles. Maybe it is a look back at a bond that seemed strong but was flawed from the start. Those who want music with multiple strands, dynamics and high-points will find themselves swimming through a composition that takes you somewhere special. You are in the song and caught between the exotic flavour of the East and the hardness and stern electronics of the West. Bringing these together could have been risky but Rivita perfectly unites them. By the final seconds, one wonders whether the heroine found peace and got the answers she required. The song is an examination of modern relations and how unstable they can be. If it is a generational issue – always wanting to discover something new – or th fault of this one human – and not being as good as he should have been – it is interesting to hear. I found myself coming back to the song and seeing whether I had missed something first time around. While the Love Is Gone will appeal to those who lionise the best Electro.-Pop artists around but, more than that, announces a very special talent with plenty more to come. It is great hearing something that departs from the predictable sounds of the mainstream but offers a tangible and human song that will attract a lot of support. It has gained huge praise already and comes from an artist who is unwilling to let too many other people control her direction.
I will end by returning to the points I raised earlier but will have a look at Rivita’s future and what might be coming. I am keen to hear more music from her and what might be coming in the next few months. Whilst her name is a bit Google-proof – search results might not lead you straight to her music – there is a huge mass of fans behind Rivita. I know there will be tour dates and chances to catch her in the flesh so keep your eyes peeled for that. It has been a while since I have encountered an Indian-born artist but that is not to say there is a shortage. I think a lot of music gets concentrated to the U.K. and U.S., we forget there is, quite literally, a world of artists out there. It is probably fair to say the overall scene in cities like New Delhi is not as strong as other parts but the culture and people of the place are instrumental to people like Rivita. The sheer fascination, buzz and adventure of the city has made its way into her heart and bloodstream. It is wonderful hearing a clash of modern sounds with something more ‘traditional’ – music Rivita would have grown up listening to in India. That said, it is the urgency and current sound of her material that has got a lot of people talking, Based in London, she is in a city that caters to her ambitions and curiosity. I am always looking around to see which countries (outside the U.K.) are producing fine and interesting music. Asia is a continent I have a lot of respect for and have reviewed artists from here. There is a certain discipline that rises from its artists that differs from other areas. Rivita, as mentioned, is based here but would have learnt a lot from her home country. While the Love Is Gone is a tremendous explosion of colours and ideas – all anchored and unified by a terrific and affecting vocal delivery.
I have always argued whether a musical education is the right way to approach music. Certainly, there is a lot to learn from academic routes but does that mean we are seeing fewer unique and original artists?! If you are taught, it means someone else is, in a way, moulding you in a certain manner. That can limit the flexibility and naturalness of your music. Maybe that is the case with Vocal programmes but those who learn how to compose and produce are given a bit more room for their own expression. I mention this because of Rivita’s training and education – as discussed at the start. For me, I like to see a combination of teaching and originality. For Rivita, she has studied in London and pursued her love through film and T.V. composition. On top of that, her gigs and new material suggest someone who has not been dictated to; never directing herself to the mainstream or to sound like a particular artist – so many schools and facilities teach their students to sound like the most popular stars of today. It is the film and T.V. side of things I am interested in following. Whether Rivita combines her music career with some composing is yet to be seen. I can imagine her penning some soundtracks for big shows and films. It seems like she has that need to explore music and sound in all its possible walks. Not only does this make her a more interesting and varied talent but she can bring skills learnt studying composing when she writes new material. Her latest single has cinematic and dramatic flair but a sumptuousness and romance that indicate her teachings are already feeding into the music. Going forward, I would expect that to continue and, if anything, see even more ambitious and striking music arrive.
While the Love Is Gone has sounds and moments that heighten the mood of the piece but remind me of the sample masters that are so rare in modern music. Whilst Rivita is not as cut-and-paste as people like The Avalanches and Beck; she does ensure her music has a similar quirkiness and adventure at times. I have been looking at sampling and whether, in today’s market, it is ever a realistic proposition. It costs so much putting other people’s material into your own many are shying away from this approach. That is a shame because, as albums like Since I Left You have shown, it leads to something majestic and affirmative. Maybe artists are right to protect their material and be quite stringent about its use. I feel there should be an easier way for new artists to sample others whilst ensuring the originator is compensated and happy. Rivita, one feels, will go down that road soon enough and create a work that brings other music into her own. It will be interesting to see whether she can create something as arresting and freewheelin’ as The Avalanches’ masterpiece but I wouldn’t rule it out. From my perspective; it is hard for young talent to sample and get into plunderphonics because of the rigorous legalities and costs. As Rivita has shown, one is able to present something colourful and broad-minded with her own imagination and ideas. Listening to a few bars from her latest track and one sees the future will be very prosperous and interesting. London is the perfect city for her and somewhere that will suit her music and mindset. When she has finished study and goes out into the world a better-informed and fuller musician; what next for the young talent? Well, there are more tracks and, one imagines, an album at some point.
PHOTO CREDIT: Varvara Production
I shall complete my review by reintroducing the argument that has raged in music for years: is it time we overhauled the rigidity of the festival line-ups and gave more opportunities to female artists? It does not seem fair the most talented and impressive female artists are given fewer chances than their male counterparts. It is quite egregious finding an imbalance but it is something we must address. I shall not go into that but, as you can hear in Rivita, here is an artist who has the potential to be a headline act one day. I wonder whether she will be afforded the chance or whether old practices will prevent that from occurring. Let us depart and I shall recommend we all listen to When the Love Is Gone and a bright star who is impressing critics and fans alike. Whilst she is starting out and still in her infant stages; the next few years are going to be paramount and vital for her. Already, I see an artist who understands the demands of the market and is reacting with passion and pragmatism. From a creative standpoint, the music one discovers differs from the mainstream and offers a deeper and more alluring alternative. That will continue unabated so it is essential more eyes cast the way of the New Delhi-born creator. Too many talented modern artists are being overlooked in favour of something that is predictable and commercial. I long to hear a day when the charts and mainstream are filled with artists like Rivita and that, in turn, will provide a much stronger and promising music culture for future generations. That might be a dream but one that is not impossible. Regardless of that, Rivita is someone who has her future mapped out and a lot of promising days ahead. Her music is designed to endure and create a huge impact and that is exactly what it does. My hope is there will be a move away from the limited and generic artists of the charts and a move towards those musicians…
PHOTO CREDIT: Varvara Photography
WHO do things right.