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

(PLZ Make It Ruins)
Riley’s frank lyrics and molten vocals are immersed in a polished soundscape from producer Vegyn

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 Photograph: Publicity image

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.


Tara Joshi

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
New music for 2023: George Riley, the R&B songwriter and club kid who is switching on the joy
Her acclaimed debut album came out of a dark place – but the experimental London musician has a new lease of life for 2023

Christine Ochefu

02, Jan, 2023 @12:00 PM

Article image
Sault: 5 / 7 review – intriguing grooves from a mystery funk machine
No one seems to know who they are, but one thing is sure: Sault make hooky, dubby, funky music with echoes of ESG and Can

Alexis Petridis

20, Dec, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
Rosie Lowe: YU review – seductive, minimalist soul probes power balance
Lowe’s second album is full of hushed and classy electronica, with questions of power and female agency never far away

Dave Simpson

10, May, 2019 @9:00 AM

Article image
Cosha: Mt Pleasant review – confident and carefree come-to-bed beats
The Irish singer seizes artistic control in an album charged with heated possibilities, sensual new love and sexual self-belief

Alim Kheraj

02, Jul, 2021 @7:30 AM

Article image
Joy Crookes: Skin review – vibrant politics and beautiful storytelling
The Bangladeshi-Irish south Londoner’s urgent debut album laces trauma and social commentary with bouncing melody and retro stylings

Alim Kheraj

15, Oct, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
Dawn Richard: Second Line review – joy and mess from a musical eccentric
The former Diddy collaborator brings Black female perspective to the fore in an ambitious collection of electronic sound

Kemi Alemoru

23, Apr, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
Alicia Keys: Keys review | Alexis Petridis's album of the week
The 65m-selling singer-songwriter is back with a uniquely conceived double album, but both its laidback and upbeat sides fall far short of extraordinary

Alexis Petridis

09, Dec, 2021 @11:11 AM

Article image
Banks: III review – a break from dark R&B doesn't quite pay off
Her third album is a less-than-convincing attempt to lighten the old experimentalism in favour of chart-friendly ballads

Aimee Cliff

12, Jul, 2019 @9:00 AM

Article image
Adele: 30 review – the defining voice of heartbreak returns
While the topic of her divorce is all-consuming, the singer seems to be pushing gently at the boundaries of what people expect of her

Alexis Petridis

17, Nov, 2021 @1:09 PM

Article image
Beyoncé: Renaissance review | Tara Joshi's album of the week
On her unapologetically escapist seventh album, the pop superstar unleashes everything from disco bangers to global house hedonism

Tara Joshi

28, Jul, 2022 @11:01 PM