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George Riley: Running in Waves review – gorgeous, softly futuristic R&B

On her debut mixtape, last year’s Interest Rates, A Tape, west London musician George Riley collaborated with producer Oliver Palfreyman to created a sonic realm where jazz, R&B and jungle melded together. Throughout, Riley offered wry and thoughtful lyricism, her voice forthright but silky.

George Riley: Running in Waves album cover
George Riley: Running in Waves album cover

Running in Waves is Riley’s second record, and her collaborator of choice is Vegyn, the British producer best known for his work with Frank Ocean. It’s an engaging link-up that finds Riley’s molten, free-flowing vocals fully immersed in Vegyn’s characteristically polished soundscapes. Some tracks feature plush, gliding strings, others crackle with electronic glitches and, occasionally, as on the record’s title track, both occur simultaneously. The result is a softly futuristic R&B tape that sits somewhere alongside the gentler music of Kelela or Dawn Richard. It’s a gorgeous record – although, given that Riley and Vegyn are known for their somewhat experimental output, it doesn’t feel quite as unconventional as expected.

Where Riley finds distinction here is in her frank subject matter: her desire for boundaries, recognition that she doesn’t want to sacrifice opportunities for love, acknowledgments that she needs to be comfortable with being alone (“Don’t wanna distract myself with sex, I can’t put someone through that again”). Album closer Desire is like a descendant of Janet Jackson’s Together Again, Riley examining the undulating patterns of her life over a shiny, cascading melody. It’s a song filled with the kind of rippling vocals, raw self-interrogation and lustrous production that make Running in Waves such an impressive, albeit fleeting, release.

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