Raf Riley is crazy. In a musical sense (and only in the best possible way) this hot new producer from North London, signed to Labrinth‘s Odd Child imprint, is substantially off-kilter. Given that his superstar artist/producer label boss inserted an operatic monk choir into his already groundbreaking most recent single (released on a record label famed for playing it safe) on the strength of a dare, a willingness to push the boundaries of sound is clearly an essential trait over at Odd Child. With that kind of remit for eclectic insanity, Riley’s incredible cross-genre production sounds right at home in the house that Lab built.
To date, Riley is perhaps best known for his production on Atlantic Records signed UK rapper Mz Bratt‘s most recent single, high-energy club rollercoaster “Tear It All Down”. It’s glitchy and loud, full of horns and blasts and more importantly, immediately urgent, attention-grabbing and ear-catching. It’s all over the place in a good way, and a great example of Riley’s sound and style of production.
LISTEN: Raf Riley – Dog Unit (Part II)
Prior to that, he caught people’s attention with “Dog Unit” and its Dubstep-influenced follow-up, a pair of monster instrumentals notable for their musicality and pushing sonic boundaries. Much like Labrinth, Riley is also clearly influenced by video games – glitchy sounds from 1990s consoles are prevalent throughout his music. Also like his label boss, Riley is just as capable of toning it down and crafting more subtle, dare-I-say conventional tracks, as demonstrated by his stellar work with fellow Odd Child artist Etta Bond. The pair have worked together on a handful of good tracks, the highlight of which, “Ask Me To Stay”, combines Dubstep with slinky and spacey future-R&B by way of ravey synth chords. It’s simultaneously forward-thinking and very mainstream friendly without being a cynical cash-in riding on the Dubstep wave.
LISTEN: Etta Bond – Ask Me To Stay
Riley is clearly a substantial talent with a penchant for wacky and wild production, working within a camp who seem committed to encouraging his originality and artistic expression. Whilst Labrinth is a clear reference point, his material isn’t entirely dissimilar to music by the likes of Hudson Mohawke or Flying Lotus, both of whom have enjoyed highly successful runs recently. His ability to produce club ready, speaker-shattering bangers alongside more atmospheric, classy and understated beats look set to make Raf Riley one of the most in-demand producers of 2012. The dream-team combination of Riley, Etta Bond and Lab are a powerful force whom I’d fully expect to dominate the UK music scene and beyond over the next few years.