Rita Ro "Renaissance"
At 15 full tracks, and some 66+ minutes in length the debut album from this Mexico City born and raised, and now London-based, chanteuse is a weighty and demanding tome, and a fairly mono-paced one at that.
Impressively, Ro wrote, performed, arranged, recorded and produced absolutely everything here, so the fact that ‘Renaissance’ is such a complete and accomplished sounding record is testament to her immense talents. Her unconventional voice, itself a rather unusual instrument will be the marmite factor here; It is surprisingly high, occasionally child-like, with all the presumed innocence that entails, and also a detached sadness in her tone, and sometimes unusual diction.
The songs on this debut are somewhat eccentric in their approach. Essentially they are introspective love poems that eschew standard pop conventions, and instead are made up of deeply atmospheric, transcendentally melancholic pillows of sound. At their best, such as on the relatively straight-ahead ‘To Love You’, and ‘Absolute Perfection’ they seem to make time and space stand still, as they reach an impressive cross between Cocteau-esque gossamer pop weightlessness, and ‘Disintegration’-era Cure’s beautiful doom in their delivery, with waves of mournful melody ever drifting into the ether. Its like the perfect soundtrack to the saddest art-house film ever made. The epic ‘Another Day’ laces meandering chimes and echoes of guitar over its heartbeat pulse, and sees Ro’s finest vocal performance of the album. Elsewhere, ‘My Love Is Blind’ (and its evocative sequel ‘Galloping into the Black Hole’) also stands out with softly neo-industrial percussive ideas and scatterings of lovely melody.
As positively mesmerising as ‘Renaissance’ sometimes is, it can have an anaesthetising effect. It would not be unfair or unjust to state that the album is somewhat mono-paced. It finds a sad, languid, albeit attractive, pulse right from the off, and doesn’t deviate from it at all during its entirety. Variety is not ‘Renaissance’s strong suit, and the occasional trip into Portished-lite misses the mark, but it does what it does with grace and nuance. There is just ever such a lot of it!
Reminding of the fact that Ro wrote, performed and produced every note here, one must rightly applaud her skills of arranging, of atmospherics, of capturing an evocative feel, and framing her musical aesthetics purposefully. Self editing is definitely the next skill to be mastered though.