Nottingham based Ronika has fashioned her debut album, named after the now closed-down record shop that stocked her essential loves and obsessions, on three crucial but somewhat lesser known albums made in the early part of the 1980s: Shannon’s Let The Music Play, Gwen Guthrie’s Portrait and, to a lesser extent, Cristina’s Doll In The Box. That’s electro-pop, disco, freestyle and boogie with some arch knowingness thrown in for the hell of it. American dance music made at a time of racial and sexual revolutions; soul music lingered in between the wink and kiss-off attitude; and people danced like their lives would be saved by it. Ronika seems to get this relationship intrinsically and her album is one that also has a slightly unhinged quality which cements a clear persona. Her mix of the old and new is wonderfully realised and, when it’s at its strongest, still fresh sounding.
Recorded over a 4 year period, Selectadisc features some material already heard on Ronika’s previously released and well received EPs and is still some of the best music here. ‘In The City’ is a fantastic song. A smoothly rolling ode to metropolitan night-time living, it gets under your skin and under your feet and is the kind of record that should have be huge and at one time would have been. ‘Video Collection’, ‘What’s In My Bag’ and ‘Forget Yourself’ are reminiscent of a Tom Tom Club/Gwen Stefani type of camp pop and are all essential. The two duets with Charles Washington, ‘Clock’ and ‘Paper Scissors’, show a more experimental showy side. ‘1000 Nights’ trips itself up only because it is very nearly a facsimile of Shannon’s tensely terrific ‘Give Me Tonight’, but even then it’s still enjoyable enough. Ronika’s voice has occasional flashes of very early Teena Marie soulfulness, but is smoother and less dramatic; make no mistake she can sing and comparisons to an early Madonna, as least vocally, sells her short.
With her arresting, canny and playful image, Ronika falls into a category of idiosyncratic woman who adore and emulate different forms of dance pop and understand the aesthetics of late eighties MTV. She is in good company with the likes of Annie, Roisin Murphy and the newly refreshed Kyla La Grange and displays an ability to write songs that are not only instant but those which also develop into lifelong soundscapes that accompany moments of invaluable dance-floor escapism. All of the really important dance music has done this, whatever the sub-genre and Selectadisc has a high count of great songs and a fun but involved groove grounding the majority. Ronika will be around for some time it appears, her devotion to making and performing music seems inescapable and is irresistible. The UK dance scene – if such a thing still really exists – should welcome her with open arms.
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